Rule would reduce feds' aches and pains

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to issue a final

rule today on a program designed to reduce work-related physical disorders

that are caused from poorly designed work spaces.

The ergonomics rule, which would go into effect in January, applies to virtually

all general industry employers, including federal agencies. OSHA wants to

reduce the injuries associated with such things as typing on a computer

keyboard all day or repeatedly pushing or pulling heavy boxes.

The rule will require employers with manufacturing and manual handling jobs

to implement a basic ergonomics program. This would include assigning someone

to be responsible for ergonomics and setting up a way for employees to report

signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders.

Employers would have to establish a more substantial ergonomics program

only if a worker gets hurt and the employer cannot fix the problem within

90 days.

Industry has vehemently opposed the rule because it says implementation

will cost more than $14 billion a year. OSHA places the estimate at about

$4.5 billion a year.

No analysis has been made as to the federal government cost, but many agencies

have already issued adjustable computer keyboards and ergonomically correct

chairs, according to OSHA.

OSHA expects that the rule will protect about 102 million workers at

6.1 million work sites. It should prevent 4.6 million musculoskeletal disorders

in the first 10 years, according to OSHA.

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