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OSHA Should Track Musculoskeletal Disorders; Addition of Checkbox on Forms Does Not Burden Small Business

 June 16, 2011 

OSHA Should Track Musculoskeletal Disorders; Addition of Checkbox on Forms Does Not Burden Small Business

Statement of Justin Feldman, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Public Citizen submitted comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about tracking musculoskeletal disease.

Many small business owners agree: Tracking workers’ repetitive-motion injuries is not overly burdensome.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) commonsense plan to track work-related musculoskeletal disorders has been subject to more than a year of costly reviews and delays. Most recently, OSHA solicited feedback on the proposal from small business leaders in a series of teleconferences. These calls only confirmed what the agency already knew: Adding a single checkbox to employer injury and illness logs will not burden small businesses.

Eighty-two percent of small businesses are exempt from OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements. For those who do fill out the forms, OSHA estimated that the costs of the new checkbox would be minimal – $7.27 in the first year and a mere 60 cents in subsequent years.

Musculoskeletal disorders, which arise from repetitive tasks, heavy lifting and unnatural body postures, are the most common type of work-related injury. Despite their high occurrence, OSHA currently does not track the conditions. The agency’s proposal would provide a separate checkbox for musculoskeletal disorders on injury and illness reporting forms and offer important data to help guide injury reduction efforts in America’s workplaces.

Many small business leaders who participated in the teleconferences supported the addition of the checkbox and understood that the change would be minor and straightforward. Additionally, a number of studies show that businesses can save money by increasing their attention to musculoskeletal disorders prevention.

OSHA and the Obama administration should approve the musculoskeletal disorder proposal and not subject it to additional delays or hurdles. The millions of working Americans who stand to benefit cannot afford to wait any longer.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.