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Dr. David Michaels sworn in as head of OSHA

After being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. David Michaels was sworn in on Dec. 9, 2009, as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Prior to joining OSHA, Dr. Michaels was a professor and interim chair at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. Dr. Michaels also served as assistant secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health in the Department of Energy where he was responsible for protecting the health of workers, communities and the environment around the nation's nuclear weapons facilities.

An interesting fact for VPPPA members, the DOE-VPP program was launched during Michael’s four-year service as the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health.

Source(s)  and VPPPA, Inc.

NC State University partners with University of Tennessee to form Southeastern OSHA Training Institute Education Center

North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee have partnered to provide training throughout the states in Region IV. They provide the US Department of Labor OSHA Outreach Training Program, OSHA's primary means of training employees in the basics of occupational safety and health. Train-the-trainer courses are available in topic areas such as construction, general industry, disaster site and maritime. The Ergonomics Center will be providing a Principles of Ergonomics Applied to Musculskeletal and Nerve Disorders Seminar as part of the OSHA Training Institute curriculum.

May 20, 2009 - OSHA strengthens integrity of Outreach Training Program

In an effort to crack down on fraudulent trainers, OSHA is strengthening the integrity of its 36-year-old Outreach Training Program by improving how trainers become authorized to teach and ensuring these trainers are in compliance with OSHA program guidelines.  Trainers are authorized by completing a one-week OSHA trainer course through an OSHA Training Institute Education Center.  The trainers are then eligible to teach 10-hour programs that provide basic information to workers and employers about workplace hazards and OSHA, and 30-hour courses in construction, maritime and general industry safety and health hazards.  OSHA has also increased unannounced monitoring visits to verify that trainers are in compliance with program requirements.  This voluntary program has grown to a national network of more than 16,000 independent trainers eligible to teach workers and employers about workplace hazards and to provide OSHA 10-hour course completion cards.  Find out more at From OSHA: U.S.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis names Jordan Barab as Acting Head of OSHA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis today named House Education and Labor Committee senior policy advisor Jordan Barab as deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Barab will also serve as acting assistant secretary for OSHA beginning Monday. Barab has worked for the committee for more than two years specializing in worker health and safety issues.

“I congratulate Jordan for being named as the acting head of OSHA. Jordan will bring a tremendous amount of valuable health and safety experience to an agency that has been neglected for far too long. Throughout his career, Jordan has demonstrated the specialized knowledge of health and safety issues needed to revamp the agency and strengthen its efforts to protect Americans while on the job. I look forward to working with Jordan and Secretary Solis to ensure that the agency works to protect the health and safety of our nation’s workers.”

Barab has worked for the House Education and Labor Committee for more than 2 years, specializing in worker health and safety issues. In addition to this role, his experience includes working for the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) from 2002-2007 and spending 16 years running AFSCME’s health and safety program. He served as special assistant to the assistant director of Labor for OSHA from 1998 to 2001, where he acted as national labor liaison and ergonomics coordinator.  He also directed the safety and health program for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees from 1982 to 1998. Barab is a 1975 graduate of Claremont McKenna College in California and received a Master's degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University in 1978. A native of Palos Verdes Estates, California, Barab also ran the Confined Space blog from March 2003 to January 2007, where he discussed occupational health and safety issues.


EHS Today:

The Bureau of Labaor Statistics (BLS) Releases Statistics on Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses for 2007

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, recently reported that both the rate and the number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work decreased from 2006 to 2007 by 4%.  Of the 4 million total number of recordable cases reported by the BLS, 1.2 million involved days-away-from-work. 

Key findings for 2007:
  • Median days from work remained a constant 7% from 2005 to 2007.
  • In 2007, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) with days away from work declined by 21,770 cases from 2006.  The 2007 injury and illness incidence rate of 35 cases per 10,000 full-time workers for MSDs is 8 percent below the 2006 rate of 39 cases per 10,000 workers.  The decrease in the number of MSDs is the largest factor contributing to the overall decline in days-away-from-work cases in 2007.
  • Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had 44,930 days-away-from-work cases and a rate of 465 cases per 10,000 workers, which is a 12 percent decrease in the rate compared to 2006.
  • Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers experienced the highest number of days-away-from-work cases, with 79,000 in 2007, a 7 percent decline from 85,120 in 2006.
  • Cases with days away from work due to a fall on the same level increased by 10 percent from 2006 levels, driven by large increases in the number of cases in retail trade (up 4,280 cases, 19 percent) and health care and social assistance (up 3,360 cases, 11 percent).
  • MSD injuries made marginal gains from 2006 to 2007 (30% of cases involving days away from work., reduced to 29%.
  • Nursing aides have by far the highest rate of MSDs – over 7 times the national average.
  • On the up side, the MSD incident rate for construction decrease 16%, manufacturing decreased 10%, and management decreased b 32%. 

To read more, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website

A Return to Ergonomics Rule-Making?

According to recent media reports, President Barack Obama’s choice for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis (Democrat - Los Angeles, CA), confirmed February 24, 2009, is expected to promote a much more active and engaged workplace safety regime at OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).  With regard to a national ergonomics standard, Ms. Solis is on record for both her strong support associated with the 2001 ergonomics rule-making effort and anger involving its repeal by then-President George W. Bush.  Of the specific rule-making efforts rumored to be put back on track from the Bush Administration include the following:

  1. An ergonomics rule to protect workers from repetitive motion injuries.
  2. Regulating exposure to beryllium (used in dental work, aerospace and computers and is associated with lung disease).
  3. A revision of the Permissible Exposure limits – a list of more than 400 toxic chemicals that has not been revised in about 40 years.
  4. Regulating the levels of silica, tiny fibrous material in cement and stone dust that cause lung disease and cancer.
  5. Regulation of hazardous exposure to ionizing radiation in mailrooms, food warehouses, hospitals and airports.
Turning back our focus to ergonomics rule-making, according to Rob Hotakainen of the Sacramento Bee, California is the only state that forces employers to take action and there is already talk of using the state’s ergonomic rules as a national model.  Recent statements from President Obama further strengthen the rumors surrounding future enforcement rule-making activity.  In a written response to questions from the Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC) specifically with regard to poultry workers late last year, Obama said OSHA “must attack this problem with all of the tools at its disposal – regulations, enforcement, training and compliance assistance.”


Hotakainen, R,  (2009).  Obama could restore ergonomics work rules.  Sacramento Bee, 2/24/09.
Sammon, R. and Craver, M.L.  (2009).  Obama administration to shift regulatory approach.  The Kiplinger Letter, 2/5/09.

Michigan Ergonomics Regulation Moving Forward

Michigan is preparing to buck the system in regard to ergonomics regulations:  The General Industry Safety Standard Commission and the Occupational Health Standards Commission held a joint meeting on January 14, 2009 to determine the future of the proposed ergonomics standard for the state of Michigan.  After significant discussion, several alterations were made including removing the draft’s grandfather clauses and inserting a phase-in provision of six months after the final rule is filed with the Secretary of State. 

The proposed regulation would require employers to provide ergonomic awareness training to all employees and require employers to assess and respond to ergonomic occupational risk factors by establishing and utilizing an effective process (including employee involvement, assessment of ergonomic occupational risk factors, and elimination, reduction, or control of ergonomic hazards where economically and technically feasible).  The regulation would not apply to construction, agriculture, mining, domestic employment, or jurisdiction covered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Both Commissions voted unanimously to move the Ergonomic Proposed standard forward to the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth (DELEG) for informal approval, then to begin a rigorous review process that would include a regulatory impact statement and public hearing.  If approved, Michigan would join California in having its own state administered ergonomics standard.  The US Federal Government has voluntary ergonomics guidelines through OSHA, but rumors continue to swell regarding a potential resurgence of a new Federal Ergonomics Standard. 
The Michigan proposed standard can be found at,1607,7-154-11407---,00.html .

Rx for Blackberry thumb

Dr. Orly Avitzur, a board certified neurologist, comments on the emergence of repetitive strain injuries occurring from over usage of hand held communication devices.  These injuries range from BlackBerry thumb and iPod finger to Wiinjuries and Nintendinitis, and are more formally called Carpal tunnel syndrome, DeQuarvain’s tenosynovitis, and “trigger thumb”.  Symptoms range from pain and weakness to disability, with the effects being greater in older users who may be more susceptible to inflammation and pain. The full impact of the misuse of these devices is not yet realized and is likely to be studied more closely in the near future.

Dr. Avitzur recommends the following to reduce the risk of developing gadget-related injuries:
  • Take technology holidays
  • Use the AutoText feature if possible to write shorter and fewer messages
  • Avoid excessive use if you have pre-existing joint problems
  • Take rest breaks when you notice strain or pain
  • If you develop swelling or if your symptoms don’t resolve, see your health care provider

Source:  Consumer Reports, January 2009, page 12.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Committee Publishes the Future Directions it Sees for Research on Occupational Musculoskeletal Disorders

Some of the gaps identified in current research include:

  • The impact of work related risk factor (repetition, force, posture, etc.) interactions,
  • The loading of the shoulder during work tasks and the resulting tissue response,
  • The impact of aging on work-related loading, tolerance, psychosocial stress, and their interactions,
  • The risk of secondary injury associated with return-to-work, and
  • The impact of interventions on the risk of workplace musculoskeletal injuries.

ANSI Panel Upholds Musculoskeletal Rule (News Release from ASSE)

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Appeals Board Panel recently dismissed the latest appeal brought by the Construction Industry Employer Coalition, a coalition of five trade associations of U.S. construction interests, to withdraw the adoption of the approved voluntary consensus standard “reduction of Musculoskeletal Problems in Construction” (ANSI/ASSE A10.40-2007), which aims to reduce musculoskeletal problems/disorders (MSDs) in the construction industry. This was the last appeal allowable under the ANSI appeals process.

In late 2006, the ANSI/ASSE A10 Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) on Construction and Demolition Operations approved the standard. Following the approval of the standard by the Committee, the Coalition filed an appeal challenging the standard’s adoption, and a hearing was held on May 1, 2007 to hear the formal complaints. On May 25, 2007, the appeals panel found unanimously that the appeal complaints were without merit and that the Secretariat, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), complied with the ANSI due process requirements in developing the standard. ANSI’s Board of Standards Review (BSR) approved the standard on July 23, 2007 after extensive review of the procedures and the record.

During Fall 2007, the Coalition filed a request with ANSI to temporarily retract the approval of the standard, but the BSR decided not to rescind the approval of A10.40 as a consensus standard while an appeal was pending on October 16, 2007. The Coalition appealed the BSR decision on November 9, 2007. The ANSI BSR held the hearing for the appeal on February 7, 2008. The BSR determined after the appeal hearing on March 14, 2008 that its original action to approve the A10.40 as an American National Standard stands. The Coalition appealed again on May 5, 2008, their last appeal under ANSI procedures.

According to the ANSI Appeals Board Panel, the appeals statement and record filed by the Coalition did not establish a prima facie case against the BSR’s earlier decision to uphold the approval of the standard. Therefore, another appeals hearing will not be held. The ANSI BSR denied the previous appeal on the grounds that insufficient evidence was provided by the Coalition in support of its appeal to demonstrate that the ASC 10 Committee failed to obtain a consensus of materially affected interests with respect to the A10.40 Standard, that the Committee was unbalanced or dominated by one interest group, that the Committee failed adequately to respond to comments or that any procedural requirements were violated or overlooked.

"National consensus standards, such as A10.40, reflect the insights of the final users and the opinions of professionals who work at all levels of public and private sectors in technology development, safety and health, manufacturing, training, financial analysis, personnel and academia," said A10 Committee Chair Richard King, CSP, CRSP. "This balanced perspective enables standards to be crafted in a manner that benefits and protects standard users."

Some of the potential solutions in the standard aimed at reducing incidence of MSDs include risk elimination, substitution, use of engineering controls, administrative changes, training, use of protective equipment and assessment of individuals’ physical capabilities.

Source:  News Release (7/17/08), American Society of Safety Engineers, Des Plaines, IL.

OSHA Offers Safety Tips for Working in Summer Heat

WASHINGTON -- The hot days of summer are here. Throughout the country, thousands of employees who work outdoors face the potential dangers associated with overexposure to heat. Factors such as working in direct sunlight, high temperature and humidity, physical exertion and lack of sufficient water intake can lead to heat stress.

"During the warm season, it is important to understand that exposure to heat can cause serious illness or death," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "We encourage employers and employees to take advantage of OSHA's many free resources that offer advice on how to stay healthy while working outside."

Exposure to heat can cause heat cramps and rashes. The most serious heat-related disorders are heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Symptoms include confusion; irrational behavior; loss of consciousness; hot, dry skin; and abnormally high body temperature. Drinking cool water, reducing physical exertion, wearing appropriate clothing and regular rest periods in a cool recovery area can lessen the effects of working in summer heat.

Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat is a fact sheet explaining heat stress and how it can be prevented. The fact sheet Working Outdoors in Warm Climates provides recommendations on how to protect employees from exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) and offers information on insect-caused illnesses such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. Employers and employees will find more practical tips for guarding against UV radiation in Protecting Yourself in the Sun, a pocket-sized card addressing skin cancer, describing its varied forms, and suggesting ways to block UV rays.

These outdoor work-related publications and others are free and can be downloaded from the Publications page on OSHA's Web site or ordered from the publications office at 202-693-1888. More information can be found on the Web sites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit

To view the news release visit:

OSHA Releases Ergonomic Guidelines for the Shipyards Industry

In an effort to aid the shipyard industry with its ergonomic efforts, OSHA released guidelines targeted toward this industry in February 2008.  Shipyards have reported that many shipyard tasks are performed in awkward body postures, at nonadjustable workstations, on scaffolds, and in enclosed or confined spaces. Even in this environment, the shipbuilding industry has found ways to make shipyard work easier through ergonomic solutions. However, the industry still has higher injury rates than both general industry and construction.

These guidelines provide recommendations for shipyards to help reduce the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, increase employer and employee awareness of ergonomic risk factors, eliminate unsafe work practices, alleviate muscle fatigue, and increase productivity.  A few of these guidelines include the following:

  • Standing platforms
  • Drum Movers/tilters
  • Conveyers
  • Tool extension handles

Steve Welch, CEO of Todd Pacific Shipyard, states:

“Due to ergonomic improvements our accident rate from 5 years ago is down about 80%...[and] we have been consistently profitable in the shipyard for 4 years.”

OSHA recommends that shipyards consider these solutions in the context of a systematic ergonomics process.  For a full copy of the guidelines, please visit

OSHA Launches "Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign"

If you have teens working for you, be sure to check out the “Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign" launched by OSHA.  This public awareness effort is designed to teach teens safe work practices for tasks they might see in a summer job.  By reaching young workers safe practices early on in their working career, OSHA hopes to reduce work-related injuries in the long term.  For more information on this campaign, visit

American National Standards Institute Approves ANSI/HFES 100-2007 Computer Workstation Standard

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has approved ANSI/HFES 100-2007, Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations, as a new American National Standard. The formal announcement was published in Standards Action on November 16, 2007.  The previous computer workstation standard initiative (ANSI/HFS 100-1988) was administratively withdrawn in 1998.

The content and breadth of coverage of the new standard with regards to the previous effort addresses changes in the arenas of workstation and computer design. The number and types of input devices have increased to include computer mice and other pointing devices, and the displays section has been expanded to address color devices. The furniture section now provides four working postures for reference by designers. This reflects the dynamic nature of computer workplaces; additionally, it seeks to correct the misunderstanding that the 90º posture used in ANSI/HFS 100-1988 was "the" correct working posture. The last major change addressing integration offers guidance regarding how individual elements that are ergonomically well designed can be integrated into a workplace system that is also ergonomically appropriate.

More than 50 individuals participated in the revision committee’s work over a 20-year period.  ANSI/HFES 100-2007 may be purchased online through the HFES Web site:

NIOSH Releases Ergonomics for Construction Workers Simple Solutions Guide

NIOSH releases Ergonomics for Construction Workers simple solutions guide, a reference intended for construction workers, unions, supervisors, contractors, safety specialists, human resources managers – anyone with an interest in safe construction sites.  To aid in the prevention of ergonomics-related injuries in construction, this booklet suggests many simple and inexpensive ways to make construction-related tasks easier, more comfortable and better suited to the needs of the human body.

Did you Know...?

  • Construction is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States.
  • The number of back injuries in US Construction was 50% higher than the average for all other US industries in 1999 (CPWR, 2002).
  • Backaches and pain in the shoulders, neck, arms and hands were the most common symptoms reported by construction workers in one study (Cook et. Al., 1996).
  • Musculoskeletal injuries can cause temporary or even permanent disability which can affect the worker’s earnings and the contractor’s profits.

All of the items described in the booklet have been used on working construction sites.  Given the nature of construction, some solutions here may not be appropriate for all worksites.  Sometimes solutions discovered for one trade can be modified for other trades. For the complete document, visit

Center Senior Ergonomist Jeffrey Hoyle Has Journal Article Published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology

Spinal loading during manual materials handling in a kneeling posture

Stooped, restricted, kneeling, and other awkward postures adopted during manual materials handling have frequently been associated with low-back pain onset.  However, lift assessment tools have focused on materials handling performed in an upright, or nearly upright standing posture.  Unfortunately, many of the tools designed to analyze standing postures are not easily adapted to jobs requiring restricted postures.  Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate spinal loading during manual materials handing in kneeling postures and determine if those loads can be predicted using simple regression...full article

Splittstoesser, R.E., Yang, G., Knapik, G.G., Hoyle, J.A., Lahoti, P., Vatan Korkmaz, S., Sommerich C.M., Lavender, S.A., and Marras, W.S.  “Spinal loading during manual materials handling in a kneeling posture.”  Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 17: 25-34, 2007.