OSHA's Ergonomics Fight Rejoined

Today's public hearing about OSHA's proposed restoration of an OSHA 300 log column for recording musculoskeletal disorders allows the two sides to again stake out positions for and against any form of ergonomics regulation.

OSHA has agreed to a request made by several commenters, giving stakeholders until March 30 to comment about its recordkeeping proposed rule that would restore a column on the 300 Log for employers to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The proposal seems simple, but both sides appear to see the rule as a prelude to an ergonomics standard and are preparing accordingly for today's public hearing.

"We wish to speak for as much time as OSHA will permit in this format, but no less than 15 minutes. Our comments will discuss our objections to this rulemaking including our belief that this rulemaking has implications far beyond merely adding a column to the OSHA 300 Log for recordkeeping purposes," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration & Employee Benefits, and Marc Freedman, executive director, Labor Law Policy, wrote in their request to speak at today's hearing. Karen R. Harned, executive director of the National Federal of Independent Business' Small Business Legal Center, also requested a speaking slot.

Another request came from Jacqueline Nowell, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Office for the UFCW International Union. She said she will present data from an analysis of OSHA 300 logs from 2004 to 2008 covering 298,000 meatpacking and poultry workers -- between 35,000 and 55,000 workers in each of those five years, which is about 25 percent of the union's members in those, Nowell wrote. "This rulemaking is of great importance to the Union," she added. "The industries we represent, meatpacking, poultry, food processing and retail grocery are among those with high numbers of MSDs. Column 7f on the OSHA 200 log was of critical importance to us for, among other reasons, tracking the number of these injuries among our members. The change in definition and recording has had a huge impact on our ability to do that task. I will use the data to illustrate the problems with the current recordkeeping for MSDs."

To file a comment electronically, cite Docket No. OSHA-2009-0044 at www.regulations.gov.

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