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OSHA's Approach to Ergonomics

A Four-Pronged, Comprehensive Approach

In April 2002, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao unveiled a comprehensive approach to ergonomics designed to quickly and effectively address musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. OSHA developed a four-pronged ergonomics strategy to meet this goal through a combination of industry-specific and task-specific guidelines, outreach, enforcement, and research.

Since the ergonomics strategy was announced, OSHA has made significant progress in each of the four areas of emphasis to reduce ergonomic injuries. Some highlights of OSHA's accomplishments are summarized below.


  • OSHA's first ergonomic guidelines were released on March 13, 2003, and covered the nursing home industry; the guidelines followed public comment and a stakeholder meeting on the draft guidelines.
  • OSHA published final Ergonomic Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores on May 28, 2004 following public comment and a stakeholder meeting on draft guidelines.
  • OSHA published final Ergonomic Guidelines for the Poultry Processing Industry on September 2, 2004 following public comment. No Stakeholder meeting was held for this guideline because stakeholders felt that their written comments were sufficient to communicate their concerns.
  • OSHA announced in the spring of 2003 that it will develop ergonomic guidelines for shipyards. Work continues on these complex guidelines and anticipates publication of the Draft Guidelines for Shipyards early in 2005.
  • OSHA is encouraging other industries to develop ergonomic guidance to meet their specific needs. For example, the State of North Carolina and the American Furniture Manufacturers Association worked together to develop ergonomic guidance for the furniture manufacturing industry.
  • As part of their alliances with OSHA, several printing industry associations and the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc., are developing ergonomic guidance for their respective industries.


  • OSHA has issued 16 General Duty Clause violations for ergonomic hazards with more cases under evaluation for citation.
  • OSHA conducted a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the nursing home industry from July 2002 through September 30, 2003. The agency conducted 1,225 inspections under this NEP.
  • OSHA has conducted 994 ergonomics inspections in industries other than nursing homes (from January 1, 2002 through January 31, 2005).
  • A cross-cutting OSHA ergonomics response team evaluates and screens all inspection cases prior to issuing a citation.
  • OSHA sent 361 hazard alert letters to notify employers of ergonomic problems in their facilities. Follow-up inspections at a sample of these facilities will be scheduled to evaluate the progress of response to the hazard alert letters.
  • Four Regional Emphasis Programs and six Local Emphasis Programs are underway across the country, focusing on ergonomic hazards in meat processing, health care, hotels, and warehousing industries.
  • OSHA named ergonomic coordinators for each of its 10 regional offices to assist staff, employers, employees, and other stakeholders with ergonomic issues.
  • OSHA currently has six ergonomists throughout the country-in regional offices, the national office, an area office, the OSHA Training Institute and the Salt Lake Technical Center.
  • The OSHA Training Institute has added a class to teach field personnel policies and procedures for ergonomics enforcement under the Secretary's four-pronged approach.

Outreach and Assistance

  • OSHA currently has 24 strategic partnerships with an emphasis on ergonomics.
  • OSHA has signed 27 national ergonomic Alliances and 17 regional ergonomic Alliances which are working with OSHA on a number of projects. Several Alliance Program participants, including the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Airline Industry Alliance and the National Telecommunications Safety Panel are working on industry-developed ergonomics manuals. Another Alliance Program participant, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is working to develop guidance on worker-related upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders. The Dow Chemical Company helped develop an extensive case study of its successful approach to ergonomics.
  • OSHA's Website features eight eTools that address ergonomics for a number of industries and occupations, including baggage handling, beverage delivery, computer workstations, grocery warehousing, health care, poultry processing and sewing. Through the Alliance Program, the Graphic Arts Coalition, which includes representatives from several printing industry trade associations, is working with OSHA to develop an ergonomic eTool for the printing industry.
  • OSHA staff serves as adjunct members on the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Ergonomics Committee.
  • VPP sites are required to identify and control hazards, including ergonomic hazards, as part of their overall safety and health management system.
  • The OSHA Training Institute Education Centers conducted 29 ergonomic classes for 394 students in FY2004 and have scheduled several ergonomics classes in FY2005.
  • OSHA provided ergonomic workstation training and evaluation assistance to several government agencies, including the IRS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
  • OSHA's Ergonomics Safety and Health Topics webpage reflects the Agency's four-pronged strategy to reduce ergonomic injuries. The webpage provides information on ergonomics guidelines, enforcement actions, the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics, eTools, cooperative programs, a library of 42 success stories from a variety of industries, and case studies.
  • OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of the Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman, to distribute ergonomics information to small businesses.
  • OSHA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce jointly developed a webcast on the willingness and ability of businesses to adopt and implement ergonomics policies.
  • In FY 2004, OSHA awarded more than $480,000 in Susan Harwood Training Program Grants to three organizations to develop and conduct training on ergonomics in the retail grocery, nursing home, and auto supply manufacturing industries. OSHA awarded more than $1.2 million to ten organizations to conduct training in new industry-specific ergonomics guidelines in FY2003.

Source: OSHA

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