Michigan: Regulators move 1 step closer to adopting state ergonomics standard
The state's General Industry Safety Standards Commission and the Occupational Health Standards Commission voted unanimously to approve the regulations, which would make Michigan and California the only states with an ergonomics standard. Lawmakers derailed efforts in 2006 when they passed legislation to prevent the state from adopting ergonomics regulations.
According to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, the rules would apply to all general industry employers whose employees are exposed to ergonomic hazards. The standard would not apply to the construction, agriculture, mining, and domestic employment industries.
The Michigan draft guidelines address:
- Training. Under the standard, all employees would be required to receive ergonomics training to address risk factors for work-related MSDs, symptoms of ergonomic-related injuries, and reporting procedures.
- Risk assessment and elimination. The proposal would require employers to assess MSD risk factors and involve employees in the process. In addition, employers would be required to eliminate, reduce or control hazards where economically and technically feasible.
- Compliance. Businesses that have an ergonomics program would be in compliance with the standard's training and assessment/elimination requirements.
Before the standard could be adopted, officials said the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be required to hold public forums.
Business groups call rules
?terrible development.' The business community has come out swinging, saying the regulations would be a costly and arduous new mandate at a time when many small employers are struggling to survive.
"This is a terrible development for employers in Michigan that are already juggling multiple challenges just to keep their doors open," said Charlie Owens, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business' Michigan chapter. "And by imposing new regulations that are more burdensome and costly than 48 other states, MIOSHA is stamping a giant ?do not enter' sign on our borders for new business."
Owens called the rule unnecessary, saying that data the business community provided to the commissions and the Legislature showed that ergonomics injuries have declined significantly without any mandatory rule due to voluntary programs and efforts by employers. According to Owens, although there are other steps in the process, the vote by the commissioners will practically guarantee adoption of a rule.
"After spending six-and-a-half years of staff time and taxpayer money to produce this rule, only then do they begin a process of determining if it is necessary or not," he said. "Obviously, they have made up their mind, and the rest of the process is for show. With the highest unemployment rate in the country, it's just stunning that state regulators are spending this much of their time creating new nails for our coffin."
February 10, 2009
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