The Need

The Need for an Ergonomics Standard
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) currently account for one-third of all occupational injuries and illnesses reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by employers every year. These disorders thus constitute the largest job-related injury and illness problem in the United States today.

In 1997, employers reported a total of 626,000 lost workday MSDs to the BLS, and these disorders accounted for $1 of every $3 spent for workers’ compensation in that year. Employers pay more than $15-$20 billion in workers’ compensation costs for these disorders every year, and other expenses associated with MSDs may increase this total to $45-$54 billion a year.

Workers with severe MSDs can face permanent disability that prevents them from returning to their jobs or handling simple, everyday tasks like combing their hair, picking up a baby, or pushing a shopping cart. Thousands of companies have taken action to address and prevent these problems. OSHA estimates that 50 percent of all employees but only 28 percent of all workplaces in general industry are already protected by an ergonomics program, because their employers have voluntarily elected to implement an ergonomics program. (The disparity in these estimates shows that most large companies, who employ the majority of the workforce, already have these programs, and that smaller employers have not yet implemented them.) OSHA believes that the proposed standard is needed to bring this protection to the remaining employees in general industry workplaces who are at significant risk of incurring a work-related musculoskeletal disorder but are currently without ergonomics programs.