Three years of hard work went on hold last month as the full ANSI A10 committee narrowly reversed its fall decision to adopt the Ergonomics in Construction standard (A10.40).

The standard, though voluntary, would have established a new “norm” for the U.S. construction industry. Under the standard, employers would be required to assess the ergonomic risks of worksite tasks, identify and implement solutions for those with significant risk and evaluate the outcomes.

Generally, sprains and strains are the most common injuries in American workplaces, accounting for more than 25 percent of all injuries and costing about $9.8 billion a year in compensation and medical expense. In construction, the most frequently occurring disabling condition is low back pain, which is the source of 15 percent of all workers’ compensation claims. Many studies indicate that safety programs designed to address sprain and strain injuries will have the greatest impact on contractor “bottom lines.”

The standard remains “on hold” because it may yet be revised and revived. Actually, in a vote last December, it was adopted in its present form by the full A10 committee. Under ANSI rules – which are geared to ensure that only standards backed by a broad consensus are adopted – committee members had 30 days to reconsider and change their votes. Several contractor associations lobbied committee members to reverse their votes, and three caved in.

According to LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider, who is a voting A10 member and supported the standard, the ANSI ergonomics subcommittee will meet in July to consider the objections of dissenters and see if a way exists to modify the standard to regain broader support. The standard’s fate will be finally determined in August or September.

[Steve Clark]