Ergonomics Standard Decision Delayed

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Jan. 24, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Board) met in Los Angeles on January 16 to conduct regular business and to vote on three proposals (options) that would significantly change California's current ergonomic standard (Title 8 California Code of Regulations Section 5110). The proposals are in response to the Petition 448 filed by the AFL-CIO. After more than three hours of testimony, the Board decided to put the vote over to the next scheduled meeting on February 20.

The first option is a proposal submitted by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health that would make several changes adverse to employers. This was vigorously opposed by CMTA and other employer representatives. The proposal adds a new requirement that Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs) would be covered in employers injury and illness prevention programs. It also removes the following employer's protections:

1. More than one injury trigger;
2. That the workplace be the predominant cause of the injury;
3. That employees be engaged in identical work activity;
4. That the RMI be objectively identified and diagnosed by a licensed physician;
5. That the alleged RMI was reported within the previous 12 months; and
6. The employer safe harbor provision (when an employer has implemented a program designed to minimize workplace-caused RMIs, no additional compliance is necessary unless Cal/OSHA is able to demonstrate that a different, cost-effective approach is better than the employer's program).

The second option is to accept or reject Petition 448 as is. CMTA and other employer representatives strongly opposed the Board accepting Petition 448.

The third option is to send the issue to an employer-employee advisory committee. This is a viable option for CMTA because it provides instructions to the committee and establishes some parameters. Specifically, "the committee should gather and review any statistical, scientific, and medical information to support the necessity for any proposed changes to Section 5110, assess any costs and/or benefits associated with any such changes, and determine whether there is a sound basis for changing the regulation. The committee should also consider administrative alternatives to improve enforcement of Section 5110 and explore the employer's obligation to address RMIs under Section 3203".

CMTA believes that the vote was delayed because employers had successfully lobbied the Board members so that only the third option had the minimum four votes needed to pass. However, we are concerned about the delay because it permits the Division to put forward a fourth option at the Boards request. Employers would have little time to analyze another option before being considered at the next Board meeting. The delay could also be detrimental to the petitioner because it would exceed the six month time period in which the petition has to be considered and acted upon.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for February 20 in Sacramento to conduct regular business and to vote on the options (proposals) regarding California's ergonomic standard.

To review the options for the proposed decisions, go to: http://www.dir.ca.gov/OSHSB/jan03agenda.html.

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