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AFT Resolutions

SUPPORT FOR ERGONOMICS STANDARD

WHEREAS, every year, more than 600,000 U.S. workers in the public and private sectors suffer serious musculoskeletal disorders that result in lost work days and frequently result in permanent disability and job loss; and

WHEREAS, members who work in offices, health care settings, natural resources, recreation, transportation, construction, classrooms and colleges are at risk of injury; and

WHEREAS, school employees suffer a disproportionate amount of work-related back pain. Guo et al. found that women employed in elementary and secondary schools reported more lost workday cases associated with work-related pain than women in other industries; and

WHEREAS, school employees have a high rate of strain and sprain injuries including back, shoulder and neck injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 45 percent of all work-related injuries in schools that resulted in lost work time were strain and sprain injuries. The state of Washington found in a detailed study that school employees ranked in the top 20 industries for both upper-extremity disorders and back injuries; and

WHEREAS, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that states, local educational agencies and educational service agencies provide an education for all children with disabilities and that said provide children with disabilities-related services designed to meet their needs; and

WHEREAS, several thousand classroom paraprofessionals, bus aides and school nurses perform physically demanding and risky work when they are required to assist children with disabilities including unassisted lifting, diapering, repositioning in wheelchairs, transferring students to and from toilets, and carrying heavy medical equipment; and

WHEREAS, these disorders account for $1 of every $3 spent for Workers' Compensation. Workers and employers bear other costs such as personal health care, sick time, loss of productivity in addition to Workers' Compensation. The expense of these disorders is estimated at $45 billion to $55 billion a year; and

WHEREAS, there is ample scientific evidence to document the problem and demonstrate that many, if not most, work-related musculoskeletal disorders are preventable. Detailed analysis and evaluation of research conducted by the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences as well as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health can substantiate this conclusion; and

WHEREAS, there are several hundred documented examples of successful and proven ergonomics programs in workplaces, including New York state's Public Employees Federation-initiated "Backs for the Future." These participating facilities have expressed significant improvement in the ability to prevent musculoskeletal injuries; and

WHEREAS, all of the union's divisions and other labor unions petitioned OSHA for an Emergency Temporary Standard on Ergonomics Hazards To Protect Workers from Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in 1991, a petition that was denied by the agency; and

WHEREAS, OSHA proposed an Ergonomics Program Standard in November 1999. It has released its final standard that would cover all general industry private sector employees and public employees in 23 states; and

WHEREAS, members in non-OSHA states such as Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois are likely to benefit from a final OSHA ergonomics program standard. These states and others generally adopt OSHA standards for public employees as part of state programs; and

WHEREAS, this legislation currently is jeopardized by the Bush administration's intent to review this final ergonomic standard:

RESOLVED, that the AFT and all its divisions work through legislative channels and all other appropriate venues to ensure that the final standard just issued is enacted as intended; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will inform and train its membership about ergonomic risk factors and the benefits of comprehensive workplace ergonomics programs.


(2000)