California is the only state in the nation with a workplace ergonomics standard.
Now it has taken steps to protect a specific population by adopting Hotel Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention general industry safety orders, effective July 1, 2018.
Under approved provisions (Title 8 California Code of Regulations, New Section 3345), covered employers must establish a written musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injury prevention program that addresses hazards specific to housekeeping as part of a broader injury and illness prevention program required by the state (Section 3203). Violators are subject to citations.
Key components of the housekeeping rule include hazard identification, investigation, training and other corrective actions:
- Worksite evaluations must be conducted to identify and reduce hazards including, but not limited to:
• slip, trip and fall risks
• prolonged or awkward static postures
• extreme and repetitive reaches above shoulder height
• lifting or forceful whole-body or hand exertions
• torso bending, twisting, kneeling and squatting
• pushing and pulling
• risk of falling objects
• points where a body part presses against an object or surface
• pace of work
• recovery time between tasks
- In the event of an MSD, covered employers must conduct an investigation to identify tasks being performed at the time of injury, and determine whether required injury prevention measures were being used or “any other control measure, procedure or tool would have prevented the injury.”
- Corrective measures include involving housekeepers and their union representatives in identifying preventive solutions, ensuring appropriate training, tools and equipment are provided, and following up on interventions to assess their effectiveness.
Lessons for Other Occupations
On a typical day, a housekeeper will stand, stoop, kneel, stretch, reach, bend, twist and crouch. MSDs associated with these activities tend to occur in higher numbers among newly hired employees and aging worker populations.
According to California Workers’ Compensation Information System data, hotel housekeeper MSD injury rates increased an average of nearly 900 claims per year between 2010 and 2014, with the main preventable cause of injuries – slips, trips and falls (20.5 percent) – occurring during the first six months of employment. The sub-group of housekeepers most likely to be injured ranged in age from 45 to 54 years old.
Similar profiles are found in health care, construction, utilities, oil and gas, distribution centers, heavy manufacturing, transportation and other industry sectors with physically demanding jobs. This tells us that many workplaces can benefit from targeted ergonomic intervention and injury prevention efforts.
Outside of California, federal and state agencies encourage employers to implement programs to reduce ergonomic hazards and prevent MSDs. According to OSHA, employers have an obligation under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) to ensure a safe workplace, and it will cite violators or issue ergonomic hazard alert letters as part of its overall enforcement program. A federal ergonomics standard briefly in effect during the Clinton Administration was rescinded by Congress in 2001 and signed by President George W. Bush. It cannot be reintroduced in a substantially similar form.
Recognizing that employers have considerable latitude in how they develop and deliver MSD prevention programs, we recently introduced two solutions: WorkCare Industrial Massage (WIM) and Wearable Ergonomics Assessments (WEA).
In limited sessions at the worksite, WIM therapists use non-invasive, deep-tissue massage techniques to help relieve employees’ discomfort before an MSD becomes a workers’ compensation claim. This method does not fall under the definition of OSHA-recordable treatment. WIM has been shown to improve health outcomes, employee productivity and morale.
For WEA, employees wear sports clothing embedded with sensors while performing routine tasks. Using advanced technology, the WEA team:
- Uncovers hidden information not detected during traditional, observation-based ergonomic assessments.
- Produces replicable data that can be applied to any employee performing the same job in the future.
- Supports job design in alignment with work practice controls and continuous process improvement.
Please drop us a line if you’d like to learn more: