CBSN

Ergonomics Standards Needed

They are the painful byproducts of America's packing houses, assembly lines and even offices - injuries caused and aggravated by the repetitive motions of workers who do the same jobs hour after hour, day after day, CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports.

The back, neck, and arm injuries affect more than 600,000 American workers each year and cost employers $15 billion to $20 billion in workers' compensation claims annually.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said Friday that has to change. "What we're saying is if you have workers who are being hurt, you've got a responsibility to figure out why and to address it," said Charles Jeffress of OSHA.

Government regulators Friday put employers on notice - they're working on new so-called "ergonomic standards" to require companies to make changes in the workplace to reduce and prevent chronic injuries.

The new regulations, expected next year, would specifically target manufacturing and package-handling companies. But the rules would be extended to protect other workers once injuries are documented.

"We might be talking about grocery store cashiers, people who do intensive keyboard work. People sorting mail in post offices," Jeffress said.

But some are criticizing OSHA saying they haven't done enough research. "We can't answer some basic fundamental questions such as, 'How many repetitions are too many? How heavy is too heavy?'" said Al Lundeen of the National Coalition on Ergonomics.

OSHA's plan will also likely face tough political opposition from Congress - meaning the proposal could be significantly watered down or even killed altogether before it can take effect.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved