The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reopened the public comment period May 17 on its controversial proposal to re-establish a column for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on the OSHA 300 recordkeeping log. According to a notice published in the May 17 Federal Register (see attachment below) these public comments must be submitted by June 16.
OSHA is proposing to reinstate a column for MSDs to the OSHA 300 Log employers use to keep track of workers’ injuries and illnesses. The political controversies surrounding the ergonomics issue, however, have already resulted in many twists and turns on the question of whether to require employers to single out MSDs and dedicate a space for them on the 300 Log.
Such a column was part of OSHA’s final 2001 recordkeeping standard, but it was eliminated in 2003, two years after Congress and President Bush nullified OSHA’s ergonomics standard. Shortly after the Obama administration took office in 2008, OSHA announced it would reinstate the missing MSD column. Earlier this year, OSHA temporarily pulled the proposed rule from the Office of Management and Budget review. While this action dismayed organized labor, the agency explained that it wanted to gather more input from the small business community before moving forward with the rule.
OSHA now appears ready to move ahead once again with the proposed rule and says the purpose of reopening the public record is to allow interested parties to comment on the issues raised in the April teleconferences that the agency and the Small Business Administration co-sponsored. Sixteen small businesses participated in the teleconferences.
OSHA has made public a summary
of the comments of the small businesses that participated in the three teleconferences. Determining whether MSDs are work-related was one issue that figured prominently in the discussions. While many participants rely on medical providers to determine if injuries are work-related, participants were divided as to whether they believed medical providers could correctly determine that MSDs are work-related.
Participants were also sharply split on whether the proposed rule would change their existing procedures for recording illnesses and injuries. Some said it involved no more than “checking a box,” while others said correctly classifying MSDs would burden their small HR departments. The proposed rule defines an MSD, for recordkeeping purposes only, as a disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage or spinal discs that was not caused by a slip, trip, fall, motor vehicle accident or similar one-time events.
OSHA officials defend the rule on the grounds that it will not change existing recordkeeping requirements about when work-related injuries must be recorded. They say the added column will, however, improve aggregate injury data and help identify problems at specific facilities.