Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Big Crybabies: Anti-Ergo Coalition Upset About OSHA Symposium

"Can't have an ergonomics regulation!" "Not enough science!" "Need research!"

These have been the all-too-familiar decade-long mantras of the rabidly anti-ergonomics National Coalition on Ergonomics (NCE).

Well, they got their Republican President. They got the ergonomics standard repealed -- and the Washington State standard for good measure. They got their CRAP (CompRehensive APproach to ergonomics.) They got their "research symposium" and the nation's leading ergonomics scientists even agreed to cooperate and boycott it.

So you'd think they'd be happier than pigs in shit. But noooooooo. It's still not good enough. Like Rasputin, this ergonomics monster just refuses to die. So what's the problem now?

OSHA has just released the names of the speakers, chosen by the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE) for the January 27 meeting on "Musculoskeletal and Neurovascular Disorders – The State of Research Regarding Workplace Etiology and Prevention." The NCE is calling the selection a deliberate attempt to sabotage the symposium.

According to a leading industry newsletter, an NCE official complained that
“What we had hoped to be a symposium looking at gaps in the science and medicine is now an opportunity to backfill a pre-assumed assumption that the practice of ergonomics is a good business decision,” the NCE official added.

Another NCE official says the coalition’s rancor stems from the panelists’ professions. “All but one of these people is either an industrial hygienist or an ergonomist. Those are the people in favor of promoting ergonomics, it’s their job.”
They're threatening to cry, cry, cry all the way to their friends in Congress.

Horrors! Who would ever have thought to put ergonomists and health and safety experts on an ergonomic panel?

And who had the crazy socialist idea that "practice of ergonomics is a good business decision?"

I can't imagine. Let's find out. Lets take a look at OSHA's (that's Bush's OSHA) Nursing Home Guidelines:
Nursing homes that have implemented injury prevention efforts focusing on resident lifting and repositioning methods have achieved considerable success in reducing work-related injuries and associated workers' compensation costs. Providing a safer and more comfortable work environment has also resulted in additional benefits for some facilities, including reduced staff turnover and associated training and administrative costs, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, improved employee morale, and increased resident comfort.
OK, let's imagine I run a nursing home. Let's see: Reducing injuries. Reducing workers comp costs. Providing a safer work environments. Less staff turnover. Reduced absenteesism. Increased productivity.

Sounds like a pretty good business decision to me.

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can run from the truth, but you can't hide. Musculoskeletal disorders are a major workplace safety problem, and we know what to do about them. OSHA created its National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics and chose members who actually took their jobs seriously. They believed they were actually supposed to take a serious look at ergonomics, not just regurgitate the pre-digested anti-regulatory ideology of the business associations who have waged a very profitable decade-long war against workers who have had the gall to believe that OSHA should do the job that Congress gave it: protect American workers against workplace injuries and illnesses.