This week's In the News looks at the work-place issues related to proposed national ergonomics standards announced by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) February 19, 1999. Federal proponents of work-place ergonomic standards, defined by OSHA as "the science of fitting the job to the worker," seek to end the more than 647,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) reported by Americans each year due to repetitive work with machines designed without human limitations in mind. Although WMSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, muscle strains, sciatica, and tendonitis are reported in virtually every industry in the US, at first the OSHA plan may affect only those manufacturing sectors with high incidence rates of WMSD-caused lost work days, with other industries to follow in years to come. Some business leaders and members of Congress question, however, whether or not the OSHA plan can truly apply to all work situations and at little cost to employers. OSHA officials maintain that the costs of national regulation far outweigh the losses of $15-20 billion accrued annually in workers' compensation as well as the emotional and physical costs experienced by employees. The ten resources discussed provide news coverage of the initial OSHA plan, organizational contacts, and research in ergonomics.
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