OSHA reopens MSD column debate for public comment

Here one minute, gone the next. Now it’s back again. The controversial musculoskeletal disorder (MSDs) column is once again on the table as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) considers making it a mandatory component of OSHA 300 logs.

If the MSD column is restored, businesses would be required to record details on all work-related MSDs, injuries that tend to develop over time and affect joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves and muscles.

The MSD column used to be a mainstay of the OSHA 300 log, until it was removed in 2003 (though then-OSHA head John Henshaw maintained employers still needed to lump MSDs in with the “injury” or “all other illness” categories). The administration signaled earlier this year it would restore the column to the log, before withdrawing it and indicating it would reach out to small businesses first.

Well, that time is now. Beginning today, OSHA is reopening the public record on the matter and inviting the public – namely small employers – to provide feedback on this proposed revision to the Occupational Injury and Illness Reporting Requirements regulation. The notice has been posted in the Federal Register and the public is invited to submit comments until June 16, 2011.

“OSHA is eager to hear from the public on this, and every, proposed rule,” David Michaels, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor noted in a release. “The more feedback the agency receives from small businesses on this topic, the better informed we will be in crafting a proposed regulation that protects workers without overburdening employers.”

Opponents of the column complain that it unfairly burdens small business with intensive reporting requirements. Currently employers determine whether a case is “recordable” and meets the definition of “injury and illness” as defined by OSHA regulations. The proposed rule would define MSDs as “disorders 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 accident.”

According to OSHA, more than 1.5 million recordable MSDs occur annually among 1.5 million affected establishments, and that the costs of the new rule would total $1.7 million across all affected establishments.

Interested individuals are invited to comment on the small business teleconferences OSHA held April 11 and 12. A Summary of the comments are contained in the public docket here. Read the complete notice here.


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