Mar 03, 2022  -  Business

Advocacy Call to Action: Contact Senator Das and ask her to vote NO on SB 1837 (Ergonomics Bill).

The bill was "narrowed" in committee to only apply to janitorial services - but the bill would still direct L&I to work on rules and repeal the prohibition of the initiative - thus subjecting every business to the potential threat of regulation.


There is a Better Way - Technical Assistance

The Department of Labor and Industries, SHARP program is actively engaged with employers and employees in a Washington State Janitorial Workload Study to address safety and ergonomics.

The Washington State Janitorial Workload study is a new four-year research project in the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, to identify risk factors that put janitors in Washington State at high risk for work-related injuries.

They already received over 600 responses – the goal was to identify ways to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses to janitors and custodians, in an effort to create safer and healthier working conditions.

Researchers from SHARP are visiting various worksites in Washington to recruit janitors and custodians for a detailed assessment of physical workload. They have already received initial approval from three large janitorial employers to recruit their employees. Workload assessments are completed by watching janitors as they do their work, asking them a few questions about their job and taking measurements (e.g., weights of vacuums, and garbage cans).

The Department of Labor and Industries has an exhaustive Ergonomics Idea Bank that is available online and easily searchable showcasing the studies, pilots and tools employers have helped L&I develop over the last several decades.

The Department of Labor & Industries offers help to employers on ergonomics. (Click here)

The Department of Labor and Industries conduct site specific visits and job specific guidance.

“Risk management from Educational School District 113 contacted the L&I Ergonomics Program for help at an Olympia elementary school. Custodians at the school were having difficulty folding the cafeteria tables to move them out of the way when cleaning floors. Several custodians had been injured while handling the tables in the recent past.”

“The school district’s risk management took the information back for discussion with the custodial and maintenance departments. Rather than wait for the budget to replace the tables or have a retro-fit device designed, they came up with their own solution – a battery-powered lifting device. With a slight modification, the device could be used to lift the tables at the folding point, with very little effort on the part of the custodian.” (Link)


The Facts About Regulating Ergonomics


They Say

The Fact Is

Injuries are increasing.

Injuries were declining before L&I attempted their failed ergonomics rule and they continue to decline today all through voluntary efforts, claims management, technical assistance, and education


Injuries are work-related.

The jury is still out after a century of debate on the causes and cures of repetitive stress injuries or musculoskeletal disorders. For example, Carpal tunnel syndrome affects 3 to 6 percent of adults in the general population and causes include certain diseases, obesity, and pregnancy. If a claim is determined to be work-related then it is compensated, and job modifications are provided. Additional safety review to protect other workers is also triggered if an injury occurs.


I-841 prevents common sense rules that we have been banned for nearly 20 years.

I-841 was needed because L&I would not listen to employers.  They refused to adopt meaningful changes after dozens of public hearings and hundreds of comments. The rule included a complicated caution zone job assessment for every task and employee. The bill applied to all employers, would have cost over $725 million to comply with and would not guarantee a single injury could be prevented. We do not need to repeat this experiment and waste taxpayer dollars when technical assistance options are available now.


According to L&I’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention Program (SHARP), workers of color are disproportionately impacted as they are more likely to perform hazardous work, experience higher rates of work-related injury illness, and have worse disability outcomes.


As we uncover more jobs lost to automation statistics, we learn that age, gender, education, etc., play a factor in determining which workers are more at risk of job displacement due to digitization and automation.


  • In the US, workers between the ages of 18 to 34 are the most affected by job displacement from automation. (Feldman, 2019)
  • By the late 2020s, 25% of women workers are at risk of being displaced compared to more than 15% of men. (PwC UK)
  • Highly educated men and women have higher opportunities to work in sectors where they are less likely to be displaced due to technology integration. (PwC UK)
  • Men with a lower level of education are more at risk of job loss due to automation than women with the same educational level (52% and 29%, respectively. (PwC UK)


40 Jobs Lost to Automation Statistics: 2022 Job Displacement Analysis -


This legislation would protect workers, make workplaces safer and save businesses and workers money.


If there were any real evidence this were true, the employer community would support an ergonomic standard. This is the very crux of the problem. There is simply no assurance an ergonomics regulation will prevent even a single injury. A rule cannot guarantee protection for even a single worker.

With this measure, Washington would join Oregon, California, and New Hampshire, which already regulate workplace ergonomics to prevent injuries.


Washington voters overturned the ergonomics rule for good reasons. After the experience Washington went through with L&I and recent failed agency programs, there simply is no trust in another failed experiment on ergonomics.


When the federal government repealed their rule, OSHA, and every other state approached ergonomics through technical assistance and enforcement under the general duty clause.


Washington has the ability to address ergonomic violations now under the Safe Workplace Standard and the Legislature has also adopted a nurse lifting law.


Washington, Oregon, California, and New Hampshire also have a nurse lifting requirement.


California’s general ergonomics rule is different and applies when two like injuries for like activities under like working conditions in a single year occur. California recently adopted a rule for housekeepers that is wreaking havoc on their industry.


Without a rule, employers are left unprotected.

L&I can already cite employers for ergonomic issues. The Supreme Court has ruled that I-841 does not remove L&I’s ability to cite employers for ergonomics hazards. Workers are already protected by current law. (Source, SUPERVALU INC v. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIES OF STATE OF WASHINGTON | FindLaw)


The Supervalu Inc. v Department of Labor and Industries found that:


Nothing in I-841 suggests that L&I is stripped of its general regulatory authority to address serious or deadly ergonomics-related workplace hazards” under state law, Justice Tom Chambers wrote for the majority.”