OSHA's Proposed MSD Reporting Rule Garners Mixed Views

In late January, OSHA proposed to revise its Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting (Recordkeeping) regulation to restore a column to the OSHA 300 Log that employers would use to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The 2001 Recordkeeping final regulation included an MSD column, but the requirement was deleted before the regulation became effective. This proposed rule would require employers to place a check mark in the MSD column, instead of the column they currently mark, if a case is an MSD that meets the Recordkeeping regulation's general recording requirements.

The agency invited comments from stakeholders, and it is getting them.

Many agree with the American Industrial Hygiene Association, which on March 29 sent OSHA a letter supporting the agency's efforts to restore the MSD column on future OSHA 300 logs. In the letter, AIHA said it believes there is a need for it.

"Although the OSHA 300 log has not included a column for recording musculoskeletal injuries since 2001, many companies and organizations are tracking MSDs because 'what is not measured is not managed,'" AIHA said in its letter. "Work-related MSDs result in tremendous cost both financially and in the context of human pain and loss of functionality. Insurance companies routinely classify strains/sprains, over-exertion and cumulative trauma in their Loss Control/Risk Management reports in order to address these costs.

"One difficulty in relying totally upon insurance company reports for tracking of these disorders is the lack of consistency of this data. There are differences from state to state in how workers' compensation bureaus define and compensate for MSDs. There are also vast differences in how insurance companies compile, analyze and provide this data to the companies they insure.

"Reinstating the MSD column on the OSHA 300 log would make it easier to track this type of injury, especially for companies who have computerized logs (as many do). Inclusion of the MSD column on the OSHA 300 log also relieves companies and organizations from the burden of establishing their own system to track MSDs. Obtaining accurate measurement of real world statistics on matters that impact the health and economics of the country is a proper role of government, specifically OSHA."

Other commenters are expressing concern over the proposed requirement and questioning whether having the column restored will actually increase worker safety. In a March 30 letter to OSHA, the National Association of Chemical Distributors noted that it might be difficult for employers to fully comply with the rule and specifically mentioned concerns with an increase in costs of software, employee screening, and staff resources.

NACD President Chris Jahn said, "OSHA's MSD proposal would cost money and resources in an economy where many businesses continue to struggle."

In its letter to OSHA, NACD said it understood that the OSHA 300 log provides an effective way for employers to clearly track work-related injuries and illnesses, but noted that having a "requirement to track MSD injuries and illnesses is not nearly as clear because it is extremely difficult to determine whether an MSD is work or non-work related. Accurately reporting chronic and acute MSDs is not adequately addressed in this proposed rule and could lead to confusion and lack of compliance."

NACD's comment also expresses the concern that OSHA's proposed rule could be used beyond its stated uses of data collection. "NACD is concerned that the proposed rule, which will result in a negative economic impact for the chemical distribution industry, is a prelude towards a more expansive and burdensome ergonomics framework. We request that OSHA clarify in its final rule the potential uses, if any, for an MSD column outside of its stated purpose of accurate data collection for the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

To read NACD’s comments to OSHA, go to www.nacd.com/docs/advocacy/2010/pdf/NACDOSHAMSDComments033010.pdf.

AIHA's comments to OSHA, can be viewed at www.aiha.org under Government Affairs.

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