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OSHA Ergonomics: The Rules Behind OSHA's Program

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on June 12, 2019 at 10:03 AM

Your employees undergo a lot of physical stress. And while they may be able to tolerate the strain for the time being, that may not always be the case.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the inherent risk for employees in certain physical jobs. This is why they developed an Ergonomics Program Standard to protect an employee’s right to a safe workplace.

That means that you, as an employer, have certain responsibilities when it comes to your employees. It doesn’t have to derail your business. If anything, it makes your business stronger than ever.

Here’s what you need to know about OSHA’s program so that you can keep your employees safe.

What Is OSHA’s Ergonomics Program?

OSHA views ergonomics as the process of designing a job to fit an employee rather than contorting an employee to fit the job.

If you force the employee to fit the job, you can run into all kinds of occupational hazards. Like musculoskeletal disorders, for example, which are disorders of the nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons which can sometimes arise from risk factors at work. Heavy lifting or repeated movements are common culprits.

OSHA’s Ergonomics Program Standard is designed to protect workers against avoidable workplace hazards. The idea is to hold employers responsible for the risks employees are subjected to–especially when things go wrong.

Why It Matters

The overall goal of ergonomics is to eliminate injuries and disorders resulting from overuse of soft tissues. OSHA’s goal is to set guidelines and hold employers accountable for risks.

Originally, OSHA’s guidelines were a broad sweep. These days, there are specific guidelines for individual industries. That said, even employers who don’t have industry-specific standards are obligated to keep their workplaces reasonably free of hazards.

That’s good news for employees (and, ultimately, for employers). For employees, the benefit is obvious. These guidelines protect their right to a safe workplace and outline their employer’s responsibilities should something go wrong.

While employers may grumble about OSHA standards, the truth is that the standards help them too. A safer workplace means higher employee morale, lower employee turnover, and a stronger bottom line since employers don’t have to worry about workers compensation or the cost of replacing employees.

The Scope of OSHA’s Standards

With that in mind, OSHA’s standards do have a certain scope. The standard applies to all general industry jobs, including:

  • Construction
  • Maritime
  • Agriculture
  • Related office management and support services

The standards are specifically related to musculoskeletal disorders, which are defined as issues like pinched nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome, ligament sprains, joint and tendon inflammation, and various muscle strains and tears.

These disorders are most often the result of repeated exposure to risk factors, which OSHA calls action triggers. There are five main action triggers under OSHA guidelines:

  1. Repetition
  2. Force
  3. Contact stress
  4. Vibration
  5. Awkward postures

Keeping Your Workers Safe

The final rule contains a Basic Screening Tool which establishes thresholds for each of the action triggers. If a job involves activities identified in the Basic Screening Tool, employers must complete a job hazard analysis. The job hazard analysis determines the scope of the ergonomics program, which must be implemented regardless of the analysis results.

You need to keep your employees safe. But you also need to be efficient. We can help you do both. EHS Insight provides EHS software so that you can stay on top of your safety responsibilities. You can spot problems before they become accidents and make sure your employees are trained to stay safe on the job. Because in the end, your workplace can’t afford anything less.

Further reading: Ergonomics in the Workplace

Topics: OSHA, Workplace Health and Safety, Compliance, Safety Tips, Ergonomics

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