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WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued the final version of its voluntary guidelines for the grocery industry, to help retail food employers and employees reduce the number and severity of musculoskeletal disorder injuries in their workplaces.
The department said the voluntary guidelines are intended to build on the progress that the grocery store industry has made in addressing the causes of these injuries.
"Working with trade associations, labor organizations, and individual grocery stores, we have developed these guidelines which are practical tools that have been shown to reduce work-related injuries in retail grocery stores," said OSHA administrator John Henshaw.
The guidelines emphasize various solutions that have been implemented by grocery stores across the country and have been effective in reducing work-related injuries and illnesses. An "Implementing Solutions" section offers examples of ergonomic solutions that may be used to control exposure to ergonomic risk factors in grocery stores. The section includes corrective actions for the front end, shelf stocking, bakery, produce, and meat departments.
"Many grocery stores have taken substantial steps to address work-related MSDs," said Henshaw, noting that these demonstrated methods are available to better protect workers in grocery stores from injury.
In response to the new guidelines, Food Marketing Institute president and c.e.o. Tim Hammonds released the following statement:
"While these guidelines contain useful information, they need to focus more clearly on proven injury-reduction initiatives and less on creating bureaucratic programs with little proven benefit. At a time when our economy desperately needs job creation, we must be careful not to needlessly increase the hidden costs of employment. We also believe the agency needs to further acknowledge that factors outside the workplace may contribute to repetitive-stress injuries.
"The food distribution industry has led the way in reducing injuries of all types in recent years. In fact, retail grocers have reduced injuries and illnesses by more than one-third over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the area of ergonomics, FMI has also led in developing industry educational materials, sponsoring discussion forums and conferences, and working with our members to reduce injuries over many years.
"While it's important for companies to review the recommendations in this document, FMI would like to state once again that use of OSHA's guidelines is strictly voluntary, and we would oppose any effort to turn this document into a regulation.
"The FMI staff and representatives of several member companies met with OSHA over the past year to discuss how best to further reduce repetitive-stress and other injuries in our industry. FMI filed extensive formal comments on OSHA's draft guidelines, which were released last summer. We appreciate the willingness of OSHA to listen to our concerns and suggestions, but we wish more of our views had been included in the report," Hammonds concluded.