California Ergonomics : What you need to know

California’s ergonomics regulation is aimed at minimizing repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) in the workplace. The state also adopted a separate rule that covers the safe lifting, repositioning, and transfer of patients by healthcare workers in acute care hospitals.

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The ergonomics rule was the first such regulation in the nation. It was created by the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board as the result of a 1997 legislative mandate. The standard was challenged but a state appeals court upheld it (CA Lab. Code Sec. 6357; CA Code Regs. Tit. 8 Sec. 5110; also see Pulaski v. Occupational Safety & Health Stds. Bd, 75 Cal.App.4 th 1315 (1999)).

The regulation requires all employers to comply if all of the following circumstances are present:

  • At least two employees performing the same task report that they suffer from an RMI.
  • The injuries are caused predominantly (50 percent or more) by repetitive job or processes.
  • A licensed physician objectively identifies and diagnoses the RMI as musculoskeletal injuries.

If the preceding conditions are present, the employer must implement a program designed to minimize RMIs in the workplace. The program must involve:

Worksite evaluations. The employer must evaluate for exposures suspected of causing the reported RMI, including evaluation of each job, process, or operation of identical work activity.

Controlling exposures. Once the employer decides which exposures caused the RMIs, the employer must promptly correct them, or if that is not possible, minimize them. The employer may consider:

  • Engineering controls such as workstation redesign, adjustable fixtures, or tool redesign
  • and employee training; or
  • Administrative controls, such as job rotation, work ...

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