While the typical office worker may not spend his or her day lifting heavy objects or performing physically demanding tasks, that worker still faces plenty of workplace hazards. Office workers spend their day hunched over desks, staring at computer monitors, and typing on keyboards. Over time, these office-related tasks take a toll on the body, resulting in repetitive strain injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and other workplace injuries. To protect office workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released numerous ergonomics standard guidelines over the years.
What Are OSHA Ergonomics Standard Guidelines?
Prior to today’s guidelines, OSHA first issued an official rule with its Ergonomics Program Standard that took effect in 2001, but it was quickly repealed only months later. Today’s OSHA ergonomics standard sets forth guidelines for most nonconstruction employers to identify and prevent musculoskeletal disorders, which commonly include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic back or neck pain.
Based on these OSHA guidelines, the employer is responsible for designing a job to fit the employee instead of forcing the employee’s body to fit the job. This could include anything from modifying tasks or creating a work environment that reduces physical stress to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. To most effectively prevent common ergonomic symptoms, today’s OSHA ergonomics standard guidelines recommend employers implement the following elements into their program.
- Offer management support with defined clear goals and objected and assigned responsibilities to designated employees.
- Directly engage employees in their own workplace assessments and prevention tactics.
- Proactively identify problems to avoid musculoskeletal disorders from happening in the first place.
- Create a system to allow employees to report discomfort symptoms as early as possible.
- Implement solutions to manage and eliminate.
- Develop evaluation procedures to for continued improvement.
Do Employers Have to Provide an Ergonomic-Friendly Workplace?
While current regulations don’t require employers provide ergonomic equipment, OSHA's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) states that employers must maintain a work environment free from recognized serious hazards. This includes ergonomic hazards.
According to OSHA’s website, the administration does cite employers for failing to protect employees from ergonomic hazards. Prior to any citation, OSHA examines the following criteria.
- Does an ergonomic hazard exist?
- Did the employer recognize the hazard?
- Did the hazard cause or is likely to cause serious physical harm to employees?
- Is there a feasible solution to reduce the hazard?
OSHA stated that it will not focus its enforcement efforts on employers who make good faith efforts to reduce ergonomic hazards. Following OSHA’s ergonomics standard guidelines is a good place to start to avoid any compliance issues.
Besides, providing an ergonomic-friendly workplace is in any employer’s best self-interest. When employees stay healthy, they’re more engaged and miss fewer work days, leading to improved productivity. A healthy workforce also means fewer workers’ compensation claims.
How to Best Implement Guidelines
OSHA ergonomics standard guidelines cover a wide range of employer responsibilities – from employee communication to developing evaluation processes and reporting analytics. With so many pieces to manage, implementing a well-rounded ergonomics program can challenge even the most resourced employers.
To streamline management of these different ergonomic program assets, many organizations have implemented comprehensive office ergonomic software. This kind of software allows organizations to offer employee training and assessments for self-correction, identify high-risk employees and jobs for proactive treatment, provide case management for more efficient oversight, and track progress with enterprise analytics. Office ergonomics software ensures every element of your program is tightly managed to ensure your organization is well within OSHA compliance.
If you’d like to see firsthand how office ergonomic software can help your organization, schedule your complementary demo today.