Reactions to proposal: Change it, scrap it

The comments on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ergonomic rule proposal vary from one organization to another, with some offering helpful advice on a rule they largely support and others calling for the rule to be scrapped altogether. Here is a summary of the some of the position statements and commentaries:

- American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), Atlanta

AAOHN is concerned that the injury trigger is not proactive. The group also is critical of the rule’s complexity and what it calls an unreasonable burden for employers. AAOHN "strongly feels that there are inherent challenges for employers who do not have the benefit of the services of an on-site health care professional to apply the screening criteria." The group also is "extremely disappointed that OSHA has entertained the question as to whether it is appropriate for OSHA to recognize or promote the role of the nonphysician provider with respect to the ergonomics standard." AAOHN says, at the very least, OSHA should require that the health care professional be knowledgeable about ergonomics issues.

- American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), Arlington Heights, IL

ACOEM supports the enactment of an ergonomics standard but wants it to more clearly define some requirements, especially those relating to the diagnosis of a musculoskeletal disorder. The diagnosis should be made by an occupational medicine physician, ACOEM says. The group also is concerned that the proposed rule usurps existing workers’ compensation laws for no good reason, and that the "quick-fix" option leaves too much control with the employer.

- American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), Washington, DC

AIHA "strongly supports the proposal," but is concerned about the use of an injury trigger instead of using a proactive approach. The group says the standard should include a trigger requiring examination of jobs with high exposure to the known and documented risk factors described in the standard.

- American Hospital Association (AHA), Washington, DC

The AHA is a member of the National Coalition on Ergonomics in Washington, DC, a group of about 300 employers and other organizations opposed to the proposed ergonomic rule.

Cookie-cutter’ approach?

The coalition calls the proposal "subjective, ambiguous, and unmanageable," calling on OSHA to completely withdraw its rule. Carla Luggiero, JD, RN, senior associate director of federal regulations at the AHA in Washington, DC, says the AHA has no position on whether there should be any ergonomic rule at all, but they definitely don’t want this one. For hospital employers, the proposed rule is a "cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all" approach that will prove impractical to health care institutions open 24 hours a day and working with a wide range of people. "The cost also is a concern," she says. "They estimated about $900 per establishment, at $150 per workstation and six stations per employer. But for a hospital, that’s a gross underestimate. I don’t know any hospital that has six employees."

- National Small Business United, Washington, DC

The nation’s oldest small-business advocacy group is "extremely concerned" that the proposed rule will have an adverse impact on employers already making an effort to protect employees. "The agency has significantly underestimated the hardship, both financial and operative, for small business. If a small business followed the path prescribed by the proposed regulation, it is uncertain whether there would be any decrease in these injuries, let alone enough decrease to warrant the rule," the group said in its comments.