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OSHA Guidelines Aim to Cut Down on Workplace Injuries

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CARY — If you spend all day at work pounding on a computer or your job requires heavy lifting, you may be at risk of getting repetitive motion injuries. The federal government wants companies to make your workplace work better for you.

A plan by OSHA has been in works for a couple of years. The aim is to cut down on workplace injuries. OSHA says the plan will cost businesses four-and-a-half billion dollars a year but will save nine billion. Employees say it will save pain.

"As I started to get more concerned that the pain was not going away. It became more of a bother and a distraction," says SAS software developer Joe DeRusso.

SAS Instituteconsiders Ergonomics part of its health maintenance program. The company worked out a solution for DeRusso, and hundreds of others.

"Try to get the employee as relaxed as possible, and that's going to be a different answer for every employee," says Kathleen Kitts of SAS. "So what we try to do is offer a variety of either computer hardware items or office accessories to help make people as relaxed as possible."

Under the new OSHA guidelines, office workers suffering carpal tunnel syndrome must be offered help by their employer.

Workers who lift heavy items, or operate in a strained position are also targets of the new rules.

OSHA and theDepartment of Laborsay guidelines are flexible.

"And it clearly offers a framework for employers to adopt well accepted principles to fit their specific workplaces," says U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman ,

Almost two million work sites, and 27 million workers will be affected by the new standards.

Work is underway in research laboratories, like one atN.C. State University, to change the job to fit the worker.

"We look at different ways the work can be done. Maybe with a different type of a hand tool, changing the way people think about the job. Maybe we can redesign that job so that it can be made better," says Dr. Gary Mirka of NCSU.

The Department of Labor estimates 600,000 musculoskeletal disorders result in lost work days every year.

TheNorth Carolina Labor Departmentis also working to implement similar rules so we will all be a bit safer at work.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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