OSHA Backtracks on Proposed Workplace Injury Rule

It seems simple enough. Employers already keep a record for workplace injuries and illnesses–why not add a column to the report for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s)—ergonomic injuries? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would provide the form and employers would simply put a check mark in right place to identify which injuries are MSDs. But now OSHA is backtracking on this rule-keeping measure, withdrawing the rule from final review to get further input from small businesses.

From 1970 until the Bush administration in 2003 deleted the MSD column on the injury and illness form, employers were required to identify these injuries. But when OSHA proposed to restore the MSD record-keeping rule, the business community went into a tizzy, claiming it was costly burden and government overreach. That’s not a surprise.

But OSHA’s action pulling back and delaying the rule is stunning, says AFL-CIO Safety and Health Per Seminario.

We really are stunned. We expected this from the Bush administration, but certainly not the Obama administration. It’s caving in to the concerns of businesses, who don’t want any new rules to protect against workplace injuries.

MSD’s are the biggest source of workplace injury and illness and Seminario says the proposed rule would help employers, workers and the government to identify the extent of the problems and to take action to prevent them.

OSHA admitted the temporary withdrawal was a reaction to the small business community’s opposition to the proposed rule. And business groups indeed hailed OSHA’s action.

The agency said the withdrawal will be temporary because OSHA planned to “engage and listen” to small businesses’ concerns about the agency’s proposal. The rule was proposed nearly a year ago and those concerns were thoroughly expressed during the comment period and in public hearings.

Seminario says the action is worrisome to workplace safety advocates.

If this is too much for the Obama administration, we are really concerned about how they are going to proceed on other important safety and health regulations.

by Mike Hall, Jan 26, 2011,  AFL-CIO Now News Blog