Writers and Ergonomics – OSHA Ergonomics Standards Hearing Report

From the NWU National Health and Safety Committee:

This is an update of what we are doing in regards to the OSHA Ergonomic standards issues, and to thank those of you who responded to the July 14 request for information on your experience with ergonomic problems. Your quick response was appreciated and to those who took the time to respond even though they did not have an injury, thank you.

The OSHA hearing was held on July 24 at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.
Andreas Ramos, Co-Chair BITE Division, attended the hearings and filed the following report: “It’s so obviously a sham that OSHA’s press package has a prepared statement from OSHA’s top person to defend the hearings as not a sham. She said that the AFL-CIO represented only a tiny minority of workers, and thus was over-represented at the hearings, etc.” Mr. Ramos goes on to say, “OSHA is obligated to hold the hearings, but not more than that. If the clueless questioning of industry’s lead testimony is an indicator, they didn’t bother to prepare for the hearings.”

There were several physicians testifying at the OSHA hearing. One of their comments was that “there were no real physical injuries.” I believe the quote was “there is no scientific validation that MSDs are real,” and they are deeply rooted in psychological and social responses of the individuals. One physician recommended “randomized studies that would spend a few million dollars and conduct a serious study.” The study should determine if ergonomic issues exist, where they come from, i.e., are they work related or can a person get an injury just by doing normal activity. It was further suggested by these prominent physicians that some individuals are preconditioned to have these types of injuries by their physical makeup and/or genetics.

The panelists asked the following questions: How reliable is a diagnosis of an ergonomic injury; how long does a test take to determine if there is an injury; do you find that there are more ergonomic injuries during economic downturns; are workers more willing to come forward during an economic boom; what is the most objective definition of an ergonomic injury; are physicians fairly consistent in their diagnosis, and what early intervention might have anticipated the consequences (MSDs).

The hearings were ineffective and there is serious doubt the panel will issue a favorable report that OSHA regulations should be reinstated. However, NWU will continue to be involved in ergonomic issues.

On August 3, 2001, Pamela Vossenas, Co-chair of the NWU National Health and Safety Committee, delivered approximately 100 testimonies of NWU members and their experiences with ergonomic hazard-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA for the public record.

We welcome any information you may have on the subject at any time. Please feel free to forward any questions or comments at any time to the National Health and Safety Committee co-chairs at their respective emails. For more ergonomics information, go to NWU.org and click on health and safety or click on the UAW logo which will take you directly to their website, and then click on health and safety.

Again, thank you for your participation. It is good to have members involved in their union activities.

In Solidarity,

Amy Rose, Co-Chair, BITE Division Co-chair, National Health and Safety Committee bizarrose@earthlink.com

Pamela Vossenas Co-Chair, National Health and Safety Committee