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OSHA Standard Imminent Despite Business Concerns

Manufacturers have fought an ergonomics safety standard for 10 years. But now they have just 70 days -- until Feb. 1 -- to make their written arguments for any changes in a proposed standard that OSHA hopes will reduce the number of repetitive motion and musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. The proposal was issued Nov. 22 -- one day after Congress adjourned and failed to pass legislation prohibiting the safety agency from issuing such a standard. OSHA estimates the annual cost of compliance at $4.2 billion, but estimates that employers can expect a $4 return for every $1 they spend to reduce the risk of such injuries. OSHA estimates that 1.8 million workers suffer such injuries annually -- with one-third of them missing time from work. OSHA estimates that such injuries account for one-third of all lost workdays and annually cost companies $15 billion to $20 billion in workers' compensation costs, and $30 billion to $40 billion in health costs. The work group most affected: females. OSHA says women experience 100,000 work-related back injuries each year that cause them to miss work. The agency also states that 70% of those with carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive motion are women, and that 62% of the tendinitis cases that are serious enough to warrant time off from work involve female employees. The proposal was published in the Federal Register Nov. 23. Informal public hearings begin Feb. 22

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