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WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday unveiled a comprehensive plan designed to dramatically reduce ergonomic injuries through a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, tough enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research, and dedicated efforts to protect Hispanic and other immigrant workers.
"Our goal is to help workers by reducing ergonomic injuries in the shortest possible time frame," said Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "This plan is a major improvement over the rejected old rule because it will prevent ergonomics injuries before they occur and reach a much larger number of at-risk workers."
Guidelines Occupational Safety and Health administrator John Henshaw said his agency will immediately begin work on developing industry and task-specific guidelines to reduce and prevent ergonomic injuries that occur in the workplace. OSHA expects to begin releasing guidelines ready for application in selected industries this year. OSHA will also encourage other businesses and industries to immediately develop additional guidelines of their own.
The Department's ergonomics enforcement plan will crack down on bad actors by coordinating inspections with a legal strategy designed for successful prosecution. For the first time, OSHA will have an enforcement plan designed from the start to target prosecutable ergonomic violations. Also for the first time, inspections will be coordinated with a legal strategy developed by DOL attorneys that is based on prior successful ergonomics cases and is designed to maximize successful prosecutions. And, OSHA will have special ergonomics inspection teams that will, from the earliest stages, work closely with DOL attorneys and experts to successfully bring prosecutions under the General Duty clause.
The new plan was announced barely a year after Republicans and Democrats in Congress rejected the previous Administration's rule, which was developed over a period of eight years and was broadly denounced as being excessively burdensome and complicated. Over the course of the last year, the Department of Labor conducted three major public forums around the country and met with scores of stakeholders, collecting hundreds of sets of written comments and taking testimony from 100 speakers, including organized labor, workers, medical experts, and businesses. The National Grocers Association was among those organizations that gave testimony on the issue. NGA announced on Friday that it commends Secretary Chao and OSHA for their decision.