OSHA Temporarily Withdraws Musculoskeletal Proposal

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Jan. 25 it has temporarily withdrawn a recordkeeping proposal on musculoskeletal disorders from review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, citing a need for “greater input from small businesses.”

The proposed rule would add a separate column for musculoskeletal disorders to the 300 form, which employers use to record injuries and illnesses. A similar requirement was in place from the onset of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 until 2003, when it was stricken under the George W. Bush administration.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in a Jan. 25 statement. “However, it is clear that the proposal has raised concern among small businesses, so OSHA is facilitating an active dialogue between the agency and the small business community.”

The announcement marks the second time an OSHA initiative that has drawn broad opposition from industry groups has been withdrawn within a week.

On Jan. 19, the agency announced the withdrawal of its proposed reinterpretation of the occupational noise exposure standard in response to concerns raised by the regulated community and the “possible costs” of the measure, Michaels said (29 HRR 68, 1/24/11).

He added that OSHA will continue to try to protect workers from noise hazards, including holding a stakeholder meeting and beginning a “robust” outreach and compliance assistance effort.

Joe Trauger, vice president of human resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, hailed the announcement Jan. 25.

“Manufacturers welcome OSHA's withdrawal of this unnecessary proposal, and we view it as a positive sign that the agency is listening to the concerns of employers,” he told BNA. “We hope to continue to see steps like this taken to take concerns of business into account.”

Trauger also acknowledged, however, that NAM is concerned that the withdrawal of the proposal is temporary only. “We want to make sure [OSHA is] taking our concerns into account in a substantive manner, rather than symbolically,” he said.

“I'm stunned,” Peg Seminario, safety and health director at AFL-CIO, said. “The Obama administration is caving to the cries of the business community.”

Seminario said the rule would not have been overly burdensome, because OSHA recordkeeping requirements do not apply to employers with 10 or fewer workers or in low-hazard industries, such as schools and many retail establishments.

By Stephen Lee