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GATF/PIA Guide Helps Printers Establish In-house Ergonomics Program

Press release from the issuing company

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 16, 2001 - On November 14, 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an ergonomic standard intended to cover employees claiming injuries from muskuloskeletal disorders (MSD). It threatened to be the most far-reaching rule that the agency had issued in recent years. By using the Congressional Review Act to kill a federal regulation for the first time, the U.S. Congress voted, and President Bush signed legislation, to rescind the rule in early March. "The event should serve as a wake-up call for the industry," said Gary Jones, manager of environmental health and safety affairs for the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). "The rule would have affected virtually every printer, regardless of the number of employees, and each area of a printing operation from prepress through shipping and receiving." Working with Jim Kyger, director of human relations for Printing Industries of America (PIA), Jones estimated that complying with the standard could have cost as much as $10,000 to $200,000 per facility to change equipment, procedures, and other compliance measures." Despite the rule being rescinded, Kyger recommends that it is still in the best interest of facilities to implement an in-house ergonomics program. "Adopting measures to prevent injury is beneficial to everyone. Employees remain safe while employers increase productivity and lower workers' compensation premiums due to preventing ergonomic type injuries. Moreover, companies can still be cited and fined by OSHA for dangerous work environments (e.g., ergonomic injury) under OSHA's general duty clause." Jones also reports that it is still unclear if OSHA will begin working on a new ergonomics standard, but there has been a flurry of activity involving ergonomics since Congress rescinded the standard. An attempt to insert a provision into the recently passed bankruptcy legislation was defeated and a hearing on the possibility of passing a bill mandating an ergonomics standards was held in the Senate on April 26. "Even though the ergonomics standard was removed from the OSHA regulations, printers are advised to begin working on putting a program in place at their facility," said Jones. "If OSHA publishes a revised rule, it is probable that printers who have established a program and meet specific requirements will be ahead of the game. The defeated rule contained a grandfather clause that allowed printers to completely avoid revising their existing program if specific requirements were met." To prepare its members for the impact of the ergonomics rule, Jones and Kyger co-wrote a 24-page guide, OSHA's Ergonomics Standard: An Initial Compliance Package for Printers. "Although the guide book was written for a rule that has been rescinded, it is still an excellent example of best practices for employers to institute a base ergonomics management program that includes job monitoring and training," says Jones, co-author of the guide. The guide suggests employers: (1) establish an employee reporting and response system for MSDs (e.g., stiffness, tingling or swollen tissues, sprains, strains or tears), (2) provide background training on ergonomic issues to the staff involved with implementing the program at the facility, and (3) provide each current and new employee with basic information about MSDs. The GATF/PIA guide also suggests what should be done once an individual reports an MSD, or the signs and symptoms of an MSD. The basic question that needs to be answered is: Is the MSD work-related? If the answer is yes, then additional steps should be taken such as comparing the job tasks to the known risk factors and eliminating or reducing the cause. OSHA's Ergonomics Standard: An Initial Compliance Package for Printers (ISBN 0-88362-348-X) is a 24-page booklet that explains key phrases and includes a flowchart of suggested steps of implementing an ergonomics program. It is available for $50 ($25 for GATF/PIA members), not including shipping. Orders may be placed by contacting GATF by phone at 800/662-3916 (U.S. and Canada) or 412/741-5733 (all other countries); fax at 412/741-0609; or online at www.gain.net. Mail orders to GATF Products, P.O. Box 1020, Sewickley, PA 15143-1020. Indicate Order No. 1622.