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The Jan. 1, 2024, deadline for compliance with a new Minnesota ergonomics rule that takes aim at high rates of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) occurring in warehouse distribution centers, meatpacking and poultry processing plants, and health care facilities, is looming for covered employers.
Minnesota Statutes § 182.677, Ergonomics passed earlier this year by the state legislature applies to:
The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) will enforce the statutes. Covered employers will be required to develop and implement an ergonomics program that includes:
Employers in the targeted industries must maintain specific, related records as defined in the law and reference their ergonomics program under the state’s A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) Act, which mandates the use of a safety and health program.
Two sections of the ergonomics statute are already in effect: encouraging reporting of MSDs, exposure hazards, and safety and health standard violations, and access to safety grants to help qualified employers invest in ergonomic improvements.
MSDs are one of the most commonly reported and potentially costly work-related complaints. When muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels are affected, it can cause pain, stiffness, loss of mobility and fatigue. Most MSDs are preventable or could be managed at onset to promote healing before symptoms get worse.
In the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ newly released annual private industry injury and illness report for 2021-22, overexertion and bodily reaction are identified as the leading cause of days away from work, activity restrictions or job transfer (DART rate). Among transportation and material moving occupations, for example, half of reported cases (165,690) resulted in one or more days away from work, with a median of 21 lost workdays.
MNOSHA projects that compliance with its new ergonomics standard will save employers $12.6 million in workers’ compensation costs alone. This amount does not include savings associated with the avoidance of persistent aches and pain that diminish productivity and overall quality of life.
MNOSHA defines ergonomics as “the science of fitting work conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the work population.”
At WorkCare, we understand that ergonomics is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Ergonomic risks are present in all types of workplaces where employees encounter physical and mental demands. MSDs linked to overexertion, repetitive motion, awkward postures, pushing, pulling, lifting and even sitting are often associated with ergonomics.
An ergonomics program involves planning, observation and adjustments in work practices, workstations, tools and equipment to reduce or eliminate exposure risks. It’s also about the people. That’s why WorkCare’s Industrial Athlete Program deploys industrial injury prevention specialists to engage one-on-one with employees and build trust on a personal level.
Our specialists are trained in sports medicine, injury prevention and relief of discomfort, safety, first aid and wellness. They are available onsite and virtually to help employees combat fatigue, repetition, overexertion and other factors that contribute to the development of avoidable MSDs.
At the onset of aches and pains, employees at companies that are enrolled in our 24/7 Incident Intervention telehealth triage program also can get immediate self-care/first-aid guidance from an occupational health nurse and physician, and be referred to an injury prevention specialist for follow-up, as appropriate. The earlier symptoms of an MSD are reported, the sooner an employee can take steps toward full recovery.
Our Industrial Athlete team also performs ergonomic consultations in the field, industrial settings, warehouses, health care facilities, offices and other workplaces. We identify workplace ergonomic exposure risks and provide recommendations to reduce those risks. Our experience shows that prevention and early intervention save employers thousands of dollars a year while protecting and promoting the health and safety of employees.
Federal OSHA has not enacted an ergonomics standard. Instead, it cites employers for ergonomic hazards under its general duty clause. Minnesota is one of 29 and U.S. territories that operate their own federal OSHA-aproved occupational health and safety programs. Two other states, California and Washington, have also adopted ergonomic standards.
For help with federal and state OSHA compliance and your company’s ergonomic and employee health management programs, contact WorkCare at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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