by Rick Barker, CPE
The value of OSHA is a hotly contested political question. As an ergonomist whose career has spanned two different attempts to produce a national ergonomics standard, I have seen this debate impact and shape my profession. One of the questions at the center of the debate has always been just how effective OSHA is at achieving injury reduction results. An interesting piece from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge addresses this issue from a research rather than ideological standpoint. This doesn’t address every criticism or concern regarding OSHA, but it does provide evidence that OSHA inspections can reduce injury costs.
I believe that there may be something that we can take away from this research besides what it says about OSHA. This seems to illustrate the adage that the first step in fixing a problem is measurement. In the case of the article, the measurement was performed by OSHA inspection. But there is no reason to conclude that self-measurement isn’t just as effective. In ergonomics, that starts by producing a risk map of the exposures throughout the facility.
What has been your experience in mapping your facility for ergonomic risk?