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House: Delay OHSA's ergonomics standard

In August, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workplace Preservation Act sponsored by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). It requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) to delay issuing an ergonomics standard until the National Academy of Sciences releases its study on whether there is sufficient "sound science" to establish a causal link between musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and the workplace.

Congress earmarked slightly more than $1 million for the study last year. Action now moves to the Senate. In a speech to the National Coalition on Ergonomics, composed of more than 200 companies and organizations that have opposed OSHA actions to date, the head of OSHA, Charles N. Jeffress, presented empirical evidence on the types of changes that can reduce MSDs. He cited the case of Sysco Food Services of Houston, which created a comprehensive ergonomics program after being fined by OSHA for posture and lifting hazards. As part of this program, Sysco requested and enacted changes in packaging from its suppliers, including smaller bags, handles on packages, sturdier paperboard, and lighter boxes. Jeffress noted that after one year, Sysco reported 25% fewer injuries and a 45% decline in the cost of workmen's compensation cases.

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