Do employers have to provide ergonomically correct furniture under OSHA requirements?


Although the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations do not mandate an employer provide ergonomic equipment such as work stations and chairs, employers have an obligation under OSHA's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) to keep the workplace free from recognized serious hazards, including ergonomic hazards.

Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to ergonomic hazards or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Risk factors at work include lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker's risk of injury.

OSHA encourages employers to implement effective programs and measures to reduce ergonomic hazards and associated MSDs where necessary. To assist employers in decreasing known risk factors, OSHA has developed voluntary industry-specific guidelines for minimizing injuries. Even if there are no guidelines specific to a particular industry, employers still have an obligation to comply with the General Duty Clause, including ergonomic hazards. OSHA will cite employers for ergonomic hazards under the General Duty Clause or issue ergonomic hazard letters when appropriate.

Some states have developed their own state occupational safety and health laws. In these states, employers must follow the state's laws, regulations and standards on workplace health and safety, not the federal OSHA regulations. See State Plans.

Employers should develop internal policies for ergonomic equipment, including eligibility requirements (e.g., only those who perform specific tasks or have related medical issues are eligible to use the equipment), as well as a process for reporting injuries. Other solutions may be appropriate and include modifying existing equipment, purchasing new tools or devices to assist in the process, or making changes in work practices. Ergonomic equipment or process changes can lower injury rates and associated workers' compensation costs, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and increase work efficiency and productivity. 


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