California is the first state in the nation to have a legally enforceable repetitive motion injury standard, which can be found in Title 8, California Code of Regulations (CCRs), Section 5110. The standard became effective July 3, 1997.
Text of the California Ergonomics Standard, §5110
Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders
Group 15. Occupational Noise
Article 106. Ergonomics
§5110. Repetitive Motion Injuries
A. Scope and application. This section shall apply to a job, process, operation where a repetitive motion injury (RMI) has occurred to more than one employee under the following conditions:
- Work related causation. The repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) were predominantly caused (i.e. 50% or more) by a repetitive job, process, or operation;
- Relationship between RMIs at the workplace. The employees incurring the RMIs were performing a job process, or operation of identical work activity. Identical work activity means that the employees were performing the same repetitive motion task, such as but not limited to word processing, assembly or, loading;
- Medical requirements. The RMIs were musculoskeletal injuries that a licensed physician objectively identified and diagnosed; and
- Time requirements. The RMIs were reported by the employees to the employer in the last 12 months, but not before July 3, 1997.
B. Program designed to minimize RMIs. Every employer subject to this section shall establish and implement a program designed to minimize RMIs. The program shall include a worksite evaluation, control of exposures which have caused RMIs, and training of employees.
- Worksite evaluation. Each job, process, or operation of identical work activity covered by this section or a representative number of such jobs, processes, or operations of identical work activities shall be evaluated for exposures which have caused RMIs.
- Control of exposures which have caused RMIs. Any exposures that have caused RMIs shall, in a timely manner, be corrected or if not capable of being corrected have the exposures minimized to the extent feasible. The employer shall consider engineering controls, such as workstation redesign, adjustable fixtures or tool redesign, and administrative controls, such as job rotation, work pacing or work breaks.
- Training. Employees shall be provided training that includes an explanation of:
- The employer’s program.
- Exposures which have been associated with RMIs.
- Symptoms and consequences of injuries caused by repetitive motion.
- The importance of reporting symptoms and injuries to the employer.
- Methods used by the employer to minimize RMIs.
C. Satisfaction of an employer’s obligation. Measures implemented by an employer under subsection (b)(1), (b)(2), or (b)(3) shall satisfy the employer’s obligations under that respective subsection, unless it is shown that a measure known to but not taken by the employer is substantially certain to cause a greater reduction in such injuries and that this alternative measure would not impose additional unreasonable costs.
Note: Authority cited: Sections 142.3 and 6357. Labor Code. Reference: Sections 142.3 and 6357.
The above information is provided by the Department of Industrial Relations.
Frequently asked questions
1. What does “within the last 12-months” mean?
The phrase “within the last 12-months” does not refer to a calendar or fiscal year, but rather, 12 consecutive months from the date of the reported injury. If an employee reports an RMI on April 1st, the 12 months following would be considered a reporting period. Should a second employee performing similar work also report an RMI between April 1st of that year and March 31st of the next year, the standard is triggered. If a second claim within that year should occur in a separate department where the work activities are different, a new 12-month period begins, making it critical to prevent further injuries before the standard is triggered.
2. What does the term “representative number” mean?
The regulation does not define the term “representative number” so therefore it is a subjective determination. “A representative number” will vary depending on the variety of furniture, equipment, processes, and tasks within the workplace. For example, in a large office area with fifty customer service reps, where the furniture, chairs, computer systems, and tasks are similar, a sampling can often effectively identify problem areas. In contrast, in a smaller office that has diverse jobs such as accounting, order taking, payroll, etc., where employees are using a variety of furniture, chairs, and computer systems, a prudent employer may want to consider looking at each individual’s workstation or work area.
3. Does my program have to be written?
Although the standard does not require the ergonomics program to be in writing, it is more likely to be effective if it is, and made part of the company Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), Title 8, CCR, Section 3203.
4. What does “controlling the hazard” mean?
Once the hazard has been identified, the employer must either eliminate it or minimize the exposure through either engineering or administrative controls. Engineering controls are defined as the physical modifications or redesigning jobs, work stations, and tools. While this may require an initial capital outlay, it is the most effective and preferred method of risk control. Administrative controls are methods that focus on limiting exposure. Examples include job rotation, job enlargement, rest breaks, adjustment of work pacing, redesign of work methods, alternate work, worker training, and system flow improvements.
5. Who is trained, who does the training, and are there qualifications for a trainer?
Training is required once the standard has been triggered and shall include the five elements listed in the standard. The standard does not specifically state who the trainer shall be or what qualifications a trainer must have. The standard also does not define who the “employees” are that should be trained. It is inferred that only those employees in the area that triggered the standard must be trained. The prudent employer should include all levels of personnel including managers and supervisors responsible for that area.