NSC Labor Division news Ergonomics State programs State laws Musculoskeletal disorders

Washington state’s ergonomics bill now law

Photo: simonkr/iStockphoto

Olympia, WA — A new law in Washington will repeal state statutes that prevent the Department of Labor & Industries from adopting ergonomics rules intended to protect workers.

Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on April 20, H.B. 5217 will allow Washington L&I to implement and enforce measures aimed at reducing work-related musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. In 2003, voters in the state repealed ergonomics standards that went into effect in 2000. The new law is set to go into effect July 23.

Sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the legislation will apply to industries or risk classifications that have an MSD workers’ compensation claims rate at least twice as high as the state’s overall average for five consecutive years.

Each November, Washington L&I will be required to publish a list of industries and risk classifications eligible for rulemaking based on the criteria. The list must identify low-priority industries and risk classifications that, based on the statistical trend, will have a rate lower than two times the state average over the next three years.

During a March 14 hearing on the bill, David Bonauto of Washington L&I’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention program said MSDs account for about 33% of total workers’ comp claims in the state.

The law also provides potential funding to employers – not to exceed 2% of the premiums they paid into the state’s Accident Fund in the previous year – to purchase additional equipment that may be needed to comply with adopted ergonomic rules.

The bill was approved by the House, with a 51-46 vote, on April 7 and the Senate (27-21) on March 1.

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