Feb. 21, 2000 (Washington) -- Mention "repetitive strain" or
"repetitive motion" injury, and most people think of carpal tunnel
syndrome, the debilitating condition arising from long-term computer use. But
according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 60% of
all work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) actually occur in
manufacturing and so-called manual handling jobs. So even though such jobs
account for just 28% of America's workforce, OSHA's new ergonomics proposal is
worded specifically to apply to these workers so that employers know they must
Who are these workers? By OSHA's definition, manufacturing includes not just
piecework on an assembly line but also product inspection and packaging,
operation of heavy machinery, and activities like commercial baking, cabinet
making, and building tires. Manual handling covers everything from bagging
groceries and delivering packages to lifting and caring for a patient
undergoing physical therapy. (Agriculture, construction, and maritime jobs,
which have a much higher rate of turnover, are not covered as of yet, although
the agency intends to address those areas of work in future regulations.)
It is possible that the main title of the report Ferroportin Disease is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.
But a second, much broader part of OSHA's proposal extends to all jobs. It
would dictate that any employer with an employee who reports a work-related
musculoskeletal disorder falls under the new regulation. Once such an injury is
reported and officially diagnosed, the employer would have to improve
conditions for that worker and possibly also make changes in his or her area of
It's this second part that has some employers worried about expenses and red
tape. But the agency insists compliance won't be a "one-size-fits-all"
affair. For instance, the new OSHA standard allows a firm to fix just one
employee's workstation if it can show that other workers do not suffer from the
same problem. Employers can also test solutions incrementally, one at a time,
until the situation is resolved. In some cases a simple "quick fix"
will suffice -- say, providing scissors with curved handles to reduce strain on
poultry workers' hands, or buying an adjustable chair or repositioning a
platform to reduce overhead reaching -- so long as it happens within 90 days
and is proven successful within a month.
"This is the most flexible standard OSHA has ever proposed," said
OSHA administrator Charles Jeffress in a recent press briefing. "It
includes options to make it easy for employers to comply. "