Friday, April 08, 2005

Anti-Ergo Industry Remains In Deep Denial

Way back in August 2003, I wrote about the anti-ergonomics fanatics getting themselves all in a hissy fit over an OSHA citation against a Supervalu warehouse (one of 14 ergonomics citations that OSHA has issued over the past 4 years.).

The citation was pretty straight-forward:
The evaluation of this manual lifting task indicates that employees are exposed to hazards that are causing or likely to cause MSDs, including low back pain (LBP) and shoulder related MSDs, as shown by a review of the company's injury and illness records from 1998 to the time of the inspection, which document that a significant number of MSDs have been caused by exposure to stressors; including 6 shoulder surgeries in 2001 and 2 shoulder surgeries in 2002."
The problem back then was that OSHA Director John Henshaw had said that he wasn't going to cite employers who had "implemented effective ergonomic programs" or who are making "good-faith efforts" to reduce ergonomic hazards. I guess OSHA couldn't reconcile multiple shoulder surgeries with the idea of an "effective program" or a "good faith effort" (at least not with a straight face).

Nineteen months later, OSHA has reached a settlement with SuperValu. According to Inside OSHA (subscription required) Supervalu has agreed to hire an outside consultant to conduct worksite analyses, launch a medical management program, and implement feasible and effective engineering, administrative and work practice controls, as well as training for workers and managers. Ho hum. What this amounts to is your basic, generic, white-bread health and safety program, focused on ergonomic hazards. Not too much controversial there.

Or one would think...

Turns out industry attorney's are once again having hissy-fits because of the evil precedent this settlement will set. In the worst criticism they can muster, the industry attorneys accuse Bush's OSHA of "following in the footsteps of the Clinton regulation." What's the problem? According to Inside OSHA, the settlement implicitly recognizes ergonomics hazards, which they maintain cannot be back by scientific evidence.
These types of agreements acknowledge that ergonomics will solve problems," another industry official says. "These abatement provisions are costly and set a terrible precedent that is spiraling. We certainly hope that every citation doesn't end up like this.
No, no! Analyzing the workplace? Medical management? Fixing the problems that you find? Training workers?

Horrors! What will this dastardly administration think of next?

Update: You can read the NCE petition here.