"New state regulations targeting repetitive-stress injuries on the job would require more employers to offer ergonomic training and work to correct reported injuries.
The proposed rules, outlined for two regulatory panels Monday, would impose new costs on already hard-pressed Michigan, critics say, while supporters call them a reasonable response to growing concern about workplace injuries.
The standards would exceed those of California, the only other state to institute such regulations, while making it easier for state regulators to punish employers for repeated worker injuries.
"It's a significant issue, even though the standard is fairly minimal," said Doug Kalinowski, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration director.
"It's been very contentious," he said, noting that a two-page draft regulation reviewed by two MIOSHA advisory committees Monday took another panel four years to develop.
Federal OSHA estimates in 2001 put the cost of repetitive-stress injuries on the job at $20 billion annually, or about a third of employers' total workers' compensation costs. Standards proposed by federal regulators at that time were estimated to cost employers $5 billion, but those were blocked by congressional action.
The last thing businesses need is more paperwork, said Todd Anderson, a lobbyist for the Small Business Association of Michigan.
"Especially when we've actually shown in our statistics that injuries due to ergonomics are going down without any regulations," Anderson said.
Small employers, in particular, would be hit by new training and reporting regulations, he said, as larger companies often already have their own ergonomics programs and would be exempted under the draft rules.
Manufacturers, too, are girding to oppose the long-planned rules." (Continued via mlive.com, Business Review, Mark Fellows) [Ergonomics Resources]