OSHA budget kills MSD log rule

Musculoskeletal disorders make up more than one-third of all injuries requiring days away from work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And now efforts to understand and prevent these injuries have taken a step back.

The fiscal year 2012 budget bill, signed into law Dec. 23, contains a provision that forbids OSHA from using any of the funds to develop, promulgate or enforce a proposed rule that would have added an MSD column to the OSHA 300 log.

The rule was never intended to be anything other than a means for OSHA to collect data on what and how MSD injuries were occurring in the workplace, data that OSHA says could be used to develop guidelines and for employers to develop prevention programs.

“This is not a prelude to a broader ergonomic standard,” agency administrator David Michaels said two years ago, stressing the column would “improve the nation’s occupational injury and illness statistics as well as provide useful information that employers and workers can use to better identify musculoskeletal disorders in their workplace.” Given the huge MSD injury problem in this country, this would be a good thing.

There were justifiable concerns concerning the column rule, and OSHA did appear to be making an effort to slow down the rulemaking process and better understand what stakeholders thought. The agency could have been close to solving some of the larger concerns, but, for at least one fiscal year, we won’t know.

As one safety and health veteran recently told me, such congressional micromanagement can be “really disturbing.”

Some consolation, however: Two other provisions attached to the House’s original budget plan didn’t make it into law. The provisions would have forbid the promulgation of the proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard (Michael’s biggest priority), and would have forbid enforcement of a directive prohibiting residential construction employers from bypassing fall protection requirements (this directive went into effect in September).

The opinions expressed in “Washington Wire” do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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