OSHA Withdraws Proposal for Musculoskeletal Disorder Reporting

By Beth Mirza Jan 26, 2011
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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Jan. 25, 2011, that it is withdrawing from review its proposal to restore a column for recording work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on employer injury and illness logs. According to a news release, the agency wants more input from small businesses about how the change will affect them and is reaching out to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy.

This is the second proposal that OSHA has withdrawn in 2011, citing the need for more consultation with affected businesses. Earlier, the agency withdrew its proposed interpretation of its noise standard, which would have allowed the agency to issue more citations against employers to reduce sound intensity in the workplace.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in the workplace,” said David Michaels, Ph.D., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, in a news release. “However, it is clear that the proposal has raised concerns among small businesses, so OSHA is facilitating an active dialogue between the agency and the small business community.”

In comments submitted by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy on March 30, 2010, the office reported that numerous small business owners objected to the proposal on the grounds that OSHA had underestimated the time and money it would take for them to comply with the proposal. The proposed rule requires employers already mandated to keep injury and illness records to place a check mark in a new column on the Form 300 illness and injury log for all MSDs. Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers incertain low-risk industries—including gas stations, retail facilities, real estate agencies, insurance offices, financial services firms, meat and fish markets, beauty salons and others—are exempt from the recordkeeping requirement. “The vast majority of small businesses are not required to keep such records,” OSHA stated in its news release.

Small business owners told the SBA Office of Advocacy that determining which injuries are MSDs is difficult and would require them to consult with medical personnel—a time-consuming and costly necessity. Understanding the rule itself also will take time and money, as most small businesses do not employ people to interpret regulations, and owners would have to hire trainers and attorneys to come to the workplace to educate staff on how to comply with the rule. Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the employers said, OSHA might not be able to certify the rule, which at the time of withdrawal was under review by the Office of Management and Budget, because it had underestimated the rule’s impact on small businesses.

Prior to 2001, OSHA’s injury and illness logs contained a column for repetitive trauma disorders that included noise and many kinds of MSDs, according to the news release. In 2001, OSHA separated noise and MSDs into two columns, but the MSD column was deleted in 2003 before the provision became effective.

MSDs accounted for 28 percent of reported workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Details of a meeting between OSHA and the SBA’s Office of Advocacy were expected to be announced within 30 days, with provisions for small businesses to participate via telephone or Internet.

Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News. She can be reached at Beth.Mirza@shrm.org.

Related Articles:

Labor, Business Disagree on Change to Illness/Injury Log,SHRM Online Safety & Security Discipline, March 2010

Change to Illness/Injury Log Forerunner of Ergonomics Standard?SHRM Online Safety & Security Discipline, February 2010

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