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Citing for Ergonomics Violations
OSHA's Ergonomics program standard is scrapped, and even though several congressional members and the Secretary of Labor have promised new rules, there is nothing on the books yet. So do workers have any protection from workplace risk factors like force and awkward posture? The answer is YES.
OSHA does have the ability to levy fines and demand workplace changes for conditions related to poor ergonomics. How is this possible? Well, actually, it has always been possible due to what is called the General Duty Clause.
On October 29, 1970, Richard Nixon signed Public Law 91-596. This law, the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The stated purpose of the act is "to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women;
In order to include the consideration of ergonomic hazards in normal workplace inspections without the use of specific standards, OSHA has turned to the provisions of Section 5 of the OSH Act called the "General Duty Clause".
OSHA General Duty Clause
Section 5 of the OSH Act, termed the General Duty Clause, states: Section 5(A) Each Employer:
If an ergonomic hazard (or other hazard) exists, OSHA inspectors may issue a citation under the General Duty Clause when the following criteria are met:
The absence of specific ergonomic standards requires interpretations which using the general duty clause.
OSHA has successfully used the General Duty Clause as a basis for citation of ergonomics hazards in several industries including nursing homes, tire production, and the food industry.
In the last 5 years, at least 22 employers have received citations on the basis of ergonomics violations.