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WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration late last week issued its draft ergonomics guidelines for retail grocery stores with the intention of further preventing occupational injuries and illness in the industry. The guidelines are voluntary and will not be used for enforcement purposes. OSHA will accept comments on them through July 8.
"In developing these guidelines, OSHA reviewed existing ergonomic practices and programs in the retail grocery industry, and visited grocery stores to observe programs in action," said John L. Henshaw, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "The agency also considered the available scientific data, and conducted one-on-one meetings with stakeholder groups to gather the best information available on successful practices, programs and processes in the retail grocery store industry."
The draft guidelines include an overview of musculoskeletal disorders in retail grocery stores and explain the role of ergonomics in reducing these injuries. The first section describes how to develop and implement a strategy for analyzing the workplace, while the second section gives examples of solutions that may be used by retail grocery stores to control exposure to ergonomic risk factors in their workplaces, including recommendations geared to specific departments like stocking, bakery, produce, meat, and checkout, bagging and carryout.
"Many grocery stores have implemented injury prevention efforts," continued Henshaw. "The grocery store industry has reduced occupational injuries by a third over the last 10 years, from 12.5 per 100 full-time workers in 1992 to 8.1 in 2001. But workers are still injured in this industry, and we hope these guidelines will help employers reduce the injury and illness rate still further."
The guidelines do not address warehouses, convenience stores, or business operations that may be located within grocery stores, such as banks, post offices or coffee shops.
Interested parties must submit written comments on the draft retail grocery store ergonomics guidelines to the OSHA Docket Office by July 8, 2003. After that period, a stakeholder meeting will be held in the Washington, DC metropolitan area to discuss the draft guidelines. Individuals are required to submit their intent to participate in this one-day stakeholder meeting by July 8, 2003.
Copies of the guidelines can be downloaded from the OSHA Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/guidelines.html and also are available by calling OSHA toll-free at (800) 321-OSHA (6742) or faxing a request to (202) 693-2498. Additional information on submitting comments is available by calling the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-2350 (TTY (877) 889-5627), or in the May 9, 2003 Federal Register.
OSHA, which already released its first set of voluntary guidelines for the nursing home industry, is also working on guidelines for the poultry processing and shipyard industries, and will also make those drafts available for comment.