OSHSB on Ergonomics Standard

Required by workers' compensation reform legislation enacted last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) continues to review public testimony and comments on an ergonomics standard for preventing cumulative trauma disorders.

Under Assembly Bill 110, enacted in July 1993, OSHSB must "adopt standards for ergonomics in the work-place designed to minimize the instances of injury from repetitive motion." The statute set a deadline of January 1, 1995 for adopting the standard.

However, the California Administrative Procedures Act requires completion of the rulemaking process within one year of the date rulemaking begins. Since OSHSB officially began the rulemaking process for the ergonomics standard on November 26, 1993, the effective deadline for adoption of an ergonomics standard is November 26, 1994.

The final version of the ergonomics standard remains uncertain, as OSHSB received an unprecedented volume of comments through public and written testimony from employers, injured workers, and labor interests. Currently, DOSH continues work on revising the proposed standard, based on comments received to date, before presenting it to OSHSB for further consideration.

Public interest in the proposed standard was so extensive that the Board departed from common practice in its hearings.

Rather than hold one single-day hearing, the Board conducted two hearings-one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco-and each hearing lasted two days. The public comment period associated with the two hearings stretched 80 days, longer than the 45-day minimum required under the Administrative Procedures Act.

While DOSH and OSHSB continue work on the ergonomics standard, substantial activity is underway at the federal level. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (federal OSHA) has initiated development of an ergonomics standard and announced that it expects to provide limited release of a draft proposal by July 1.

It remains unclear what form the federal ergonomics standard will take, although it is expected to be stricter than California's standard. When a federal requirement is adopted, California is required to impose requirements at least as effective as those of the federal standard. When federal and state standards differ, the tougher standard takes precedence.

For additional information on the pro-posed ergonomics standard, please contact the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board at (916) 322-3640 or write to OSHSB at 1006 4th St., Third Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.