Ergonomics Legislation State laws Musculoskeletal disorders

Washington State House advances bill aimed at protecting workers from ergo injuries

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Photo: Дмитрий Ларичев

Olympia, WA — Legislation that would restore Washington state regulations requiring employers to establish practices intended to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders was approved by the state House on Feb. 15.

In 2003, Washington voters approved Initiative 841, which repealed ergonomics regulations put in place three years earlier and barred the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries from regulating working practices to address musculoskeletal injuries.

H.B. 1837, sponsored by Rep. Dan Bronoske (D-Lakewood) and approved by a 50-48 vote, would allow “targeted safety efforts to more effectively and efficiently prevent these needless workplace injuries” and offer educational and technical support to small businesses in need via Washington L&I.

According to the new legislation, certain critical state industries, including agriculture and health care, are identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as being high risk for musculoskeletal injuries.

 

A press release from Democrats in the state House claims that under current law, workers have no protections related to repetitive motion injuries. “Keeping working people healthy while at work is vital to Washington’s economy,” Bronoske said in the release. “But they pay a preventable price for this work. They pay with diminished health, less earning potential, and hours of doctors’ appointments and physical therapy. We can and should prevent these injuries.”

The bill states that “Washington has one of the most robust, no-cost, professional safety and health consultation services available anywhere in the nation to assist employers to fulfill their responsibilities to provide a safe and healthful workplace.” It now moves to the state Senate, where it is scheduled for a Feb. 23 public hearing before the Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee.

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