IR # 97-01
Monday, January 6, 1997

John MacLeod
(916) 322-3640

Standards Board to Draft Language Clarifying Ergonomics Regulations

SACRAMENTO-- The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board today announced that it will immediately begin the process of clarifying the language of the ergonomics regulations recently reviewed by the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The draft regulations, the first in the nation designed to protect workers from work-related repetitive motion injuries (RMI's), were submitted to OAL for review on November 15, 1996 after adoption by the Standards Board. Upon conclusion of its review on January 2, 1997 the OAL asked for clarification of various sections to ensure that the regulations could be readily understood by California's employers and employees.

"The action by the OAL underscores the difficulty of regulating to minimize the occurrence of repetitive motion injuries in the workplace. We believe that, when amended, the ergonomics rule will meet and exceed the standards required by the Office of Administrative Law," said John MacLeod, Executive Officer of the Standards Board. "The Standards Board will work to resolve these clarity issues to ensure that these regulations will be implemented as required by law."

The ergonomics regulation, which was legislatively mandated, was the result of a year long effort by the Standards Board to create a standard that would effectively regulate workplaces where repetitive motion injuries to employees have occurred, without imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on employers.

In citing where clarification in the standard is needed, the OAL identified seven areas of concern that will require change. One of OAL's concerns pointed out the need to restructure the scope and application requirements of the regulation so that it may be more easily understood. The other six clarity concerns focused on a need to provide a more thorough understanding of an employer's obligation with respect to the terms "identical work activity", "workplace", "a diagnosis of RMI", "objectively identified" and "within the last twelve months".

"OAL's concerns with the language within the original regulation are technical and procedural, rather than substantive and can be handled in a routine manner. They do not represent the main elements of the legal challenges expected from business and labor groups," continued MacLeod. "When these clarity issues are resolved the Standards Board will have met its legislative mandate to implement ergonomic standards for California."

The Standards Board will have 120 days to develop and adopt clarifying language which satisfies the OAL. The Standards Board will begin addressing these issues at its next public meeting on January 16, 1997.