Under Federal Law, there are currently no regulations mandating ergonomics training for employees. However, there are OSHA standards in hazard awareness explicitly requiring employers to train employees in safe and healthy work practices. Exposure to ergonomic risk factors is a known hazard for many jobs. So, it makes sense to educate employees on how these exposures could impact them or cause a musculoskeletal disorder, and how they can minimize the risks.
In California, there are several Cal-OSHA regulations requiring employee training, including Cal-OSHA 5110, the IIPP, and the recent MIPP affecting hotel housekeepers. It's been over 22 years since California put into place its reactive ergonomics regulation (Cal-OSHA 5110). This rule requires employers who have had more than one repetitive motion injury in the last 12 months to train employees in ergonomics.
So, YES, there are regulatory requirements to provide office ergonomics training, but only in California!
Cal-OSHA 5110 Recommended Training Objectives
The Cal-OSHA 5110 regulation stipulates employees shall be provided training that includes an explanation of the:
- Employer's ergonomics program
- Exposures known to be associated with repetitive motion injuries
- Symptoms and consequences of injuries caused by repetitive motion
- Methods used by the employer to minimize Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs)
- Importance of reporting symptoms and injuries to the employer
These learning objectives are a great start when setting up office ergonomics training and will help ensure compliance. But it also means you need to have an ergonomics program in place! The minimum criteria in your ergonomics program under Cal-OSHA 5110 is to offer ergonomic worksite analysis to those that qualify, implement control measures to minimize the risk of RMIs, and provide employees with training.
If the employer hasn’t had any repetitive motion injuries, the above objectives should still be included in ergonomics training provided to employees.
Instructions, Education, and Awareness = Prevention
The complexity of the modern office brings highly adjustable ergonomic chairs, sit to stand devices, multiple monitors mounted on monitor arms, laptops, alternative keyboards, and mice. None of these devices come with ergonomic instructions! It's imperative that training includes instructions on how to adjust the position of and proper use of the equipment, furniture, and technology you invest in. Otherwise, it's a waste of money. Incorrect set-up leads to the onset of discomfort and ultimately... an injury.
Employees need to understand the impact of ergonomic risk factors, such as prolonged sitting, leaning on wrists to use the keyboard and mouse, and improper sitting posture. The ability to recognize one's own bad habits can only be brought forward in training employees through awareness of recommended postures, accepted ergonomic principles, and safe work practices.
Awareness of early signs and symptoms of ergonomic issues is a critical component of employees taking action. With training, employees will have a greater understanding of how to remedy concerns through self-care, and when to report unresolved issues to their supervisor. Waiting to see if symptoms will resolve or withholding this information can be devastating and lead to injury and claim filing. Early reporting should be discussed as part of the training and include the pathway on how to do remedy from self-correction to requesting an ergonomic evaluation to medical management when needed.
Selecting a Qualified Trainer
Selecting a competent and qualified trainer to deliver online or live training is imperative. Your trainer should have:
- A background in ergonomics (CIE, CPE or other)
- Several years of experience performing office ergonomic assessments
- Experience teaching office ergonomics
The training delivered should provide employees the information needed to practice good ergonomics, including how to properly use and self-correct their work area and ask for help if needed. Ergonomics training, whether for compliance or preventive reasons, empowers employees to be proactive about their ergonomics and encourages them to participate in their own health and wellness. This is a win: win for everyone!