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OSHA temporarily withdraws MSD column rule

January 25, 2011

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Washington – OSHA’s controversial proposed rule that would add a work-related musculoskeletal disorder column on employer injury and illness logs was temporarily withdrawn Jan. 25 to seek additional input from small businesses.

Originally announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking last January, the rule would revise occupational injury and illness recording and reporting by requiring employers who keep injury logs to list MSD injuries in a specific column on the 300 log instead of in the “other” or “injury” column.

The proposed rule would apply only to employers who are required to keep injury and illness records, and would not affect the majority of small businesses, according to OSHA. OSHA leaders claim the new column would not add a substantial burden to employers, and the information collected could help prevent MSD injuries. Critics contend it would complicate and confuse the recording process, and that the definition of “MSD” is too broad.

In the Jan. 25 withdrawal announcement, OSHA administrator David Michaels acknowledged some of the concerns, singling out those from the small business community. “This proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces,” Michaels said in a press release. “However, it is clear that the proposal has raised concern among small businesses, so OSHA is facilitating an active dialogue between the agency and the small business community.”

Within the next 30 days, the agency said, details will be announced on a meeting hosted by OSHA and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy to learn what small businesses think about the proposal. Small businesses from across the country will be able to participate electronically.

Reaction

OSHA’s temporary withdrawal has drawn mixed reactions. The Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers welcomed the move, calling it a sign that OSHA is listening to employer concerns about “costly and burdensome requirements.”

“We urge OSHA to continue to demonstrate that it is curbing the unnecessary regulations that are holding back job growth by permanently withdrawing this ill-conceived proposed rule,” NAM Vice President of Human Resources Policy Joe Trauger said in a press release.

However, a representative from a Washington-based nonprofit consumer advocacy organization said he was “mystified” by the announcement. “Repetitive motion injuries do silent violence to workers across the nation,” said Alex Chasick, policy counsel for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “It is hardly asking too much to require employers to check a box indicating that a work-related injury is a musculoskeletal disorder.”

This is the second major proposal OSHA has backed away from in less than a week. On Jan. 19, the agency withdrew a proposed interpretation of its noise standards.

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