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MIOSHA Ergonomics Rule

January 27, 2009

There has been an effort over the years in Michigan to adopt mandatory ergonomics standards under MIOSHA. In the past, business groups have been able to defeat these proposals. Currently, federal law has voluntary ergonomic guidelines. MIOSHA materials give the impression that these ergonomic standards are mandatory, but they are voluntary. Currently, California is the only state that has enforceable ergonomic rules. Michigan may join California before year-end.

Specific ergonomic standards have been approved by unanimous vote in the Michigan General Industry Safety Standards Commission as well as the Occupational Health Standards Commission. Public hearings will be held and the rule will likely be adopted by MIOSHA. The formal ergonomic standards could be in effect before year-end.

Access the link on the right to view the draft ergonomic rules. In summary, the rules will apply to general industry. They do not apply to (1) construction, (2) agriculture, (3) mining, or (4) domestic employment. The rules would require employers provide all employees with ergonomics training covering occupational risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders, symptoms, and reporting procedures. Employers would be responsible for assessing risk factors and eliminating, reducing, and controlling ergonomic hazards “where economically and technically feasible.”

Many argue that Michigan should not adopt these rules since they would make Michigan only the second state in the entire country to set such standards. However, given the unanimous votes in the General Industry Safety Standards Commission and the Occupational Health Standards Commission, these proposed regulations may well be enacted.

Many companies do all they can to reduce cumulative trauma disorders in order to reduce injuries and workers’ compensation costs. Companies that do not analyze the workplace, engineer out job requirements that cause and contribute to cumulative trauma disorders, and who don’t rotate employees through different positions throughout the day and the week run a legal risk. The proposed standards do not define what types of modifications are economically and technically feasible, making an increased number of MIOSHA citations likely.

We will continue to monitor this proposed new MIOSHA regulation and keep you informed. If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact Rick Symons at (616) 336-6617.

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