Some industry groups were very happy recently when they learned that the National Safety Council abandoned its role as overseer of a 13-year effort to draft ergonomics guidelines for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Before this was announced, the fear was that OSHA would start fining companies that didn't follow ANSI guidelines. These guidelines would have filled the void left when OSHA's attempt to enact mandatory ergonomics rules was defeated by Congress.
OSHA is now embarking on a new approach to establishing workplace safety: they're approaching industries one by one to promote voluntary guidelines. The material handling industry is on OSHA's dance card.
At the recent annual meeting of the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), Mario Feletto, of the California OSHA Consultation Service, Research & Education Unit, presented a set of ergonomic guidelines for manual material handling and asked the manufacturers present for further input. Feletto acknowledged that the Federal OSHA standard was too long and was seen as either too restrictive or not protective enough, depending on who was doing the talking. Now OSHA's focus is on improvements, not problems. That's why the Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE) council of MHIA was OSHA's point of contact.
Feletto asked that EASE partner with OSHA to further develop its manual material handling guidelines. The draft document presented to the group includes a discussion of why these guidelines are needed, how to look for clues as to which tasks are causing problems, how to prioritize jobs, how to make informed improvement choices, how to manage trial periods and appropriate follow-up procedures. The EASE membership in attendance were asked to flesh-out the skeleton of this document to best represent the needs of their customers who perform manual material handling.
For more information on how EASE intends to work with OSHA on establishing workplace guidelines, contact EASE via Bobbie Curtis, managing executive, at 704-676-1190, or e-mail her at [email protected].