Overcoming more than two years of resistance from a coalition of construction contractor associations, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published its long-awaited standard on sprain and strain injuries in construction in July. For the first time since Congress voided OSHA’s ergonomics standard in 2001, the construction industry has guidance for limiting musculoskeletal injuries, the most common and costly in the industry.

The new standard is voluntary, but by summarizing best practice, it establishes criteria for assessing if responsible safety practices are in effect at a construction jobsite. The standard (a) recognizes that sprain and strain injuries are a major problem in construction and (b) establishes an employer’s duty to review jobsites for ergonomic dangers, assess significant risks and, working with employees, take action to reduce risk exposures. The standard imposes no specific employer obligations other than the responsibility to assess dangers and involve workers in their mitigation (summation of standard).

According to a coalition of construction contractor associations, however, assessing worksites and addressing sprain and strain risks is a heavy burden, so it launched a final appeal against the ANSI A10 Committee’s adoption of the standard. The first appeal, to the Appeals Panel of the ANSI A10 Secretariat, was denied on May 25, 2007. A subsequent appeal to the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR) was rejected on March 13, 2008. The last one, to the ANSI Appeals Board, was heard and resolved in July. 

August 13 at Noon

Scott Schneider will join A10.40 Committee Chairman Frank Berg in an online review of the standard and its history. The cost is $135 which includes a copy of the standard. For more information, go to details and registration.

The most recent appeals argued procedural matters because the actual substance of the sprain and strain standard was evaluated and resolved through the work of the A10 Committee in 2005 and 2006. During that period, the members of the committee – which includes employers, contractor associations, unions, technical experts, safety professionals and government agencies – developed an initial draft standard, saw it defeated in a close committee vote, considered concerns raised by opponents, revised the draft to address those concerns and eventually won the required two-thirds majority of the voting members. The standard was originally scheduled for publication last fall, but the A10 committee delayed publication while the appeals were considered.

The appellants’ argued that ANSI violated its own procedural rules and reached a consensus agreement without achieving a real consensus. They argued that no consensus is possible if construction contractor associations do not vote with the two-thirds majority. In essence, the construction contractor associations tried to veto adoption of any standard that they did not support, even though all other employers, unions, technical experts and safety professionals agreed on its necessity.

“The associations opposed the standard from the beginning, but never offered any evidence to show that it is infeasible or unscientific,” says the LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Scott Schneider, who serves on the A10 Committee. “The data are clear: more than a third of all workers’ compensation costs are sprain and strain-related. Once the Committee settled on the importance of providing guidance to control these injuries, the associations basically abstained from any effort to define a standard.”

The new standard is voluntary, so employers need not follow it. “But, if they do follow it, they’ll save money and prevent injuries,” says Schneider.

[Steve Clark]