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Washington bill would regulate musculoskeletal workplace safety

Posted On: Jan. 20, 2023 12:26 PM CST


Washington state lawmakers will soon introduce legislation that would allow state regulators to better address workplace musculoskeletal injuries, a common driver of workers compensation claims.  

Senate Bill 5217, which will be formally filed on Jan. 24, would repeal a current prohibition that prevents the state Department of Labor and Industries from enacting rules designed to thwart workplace musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.

The legislation is aimed at restoring the state’s “ability to more strategically address important workplace safety issues and reduce costs for all employers and workers,” the bill reads.

Sponsors of the measure say that the absence of the state’s authority to regulate practices to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries has contributed to avoidable and excessive injury claims and costs in the workers compensation system for all employers statewide.  

According to the bill, work-related musculoskeletal injuries make up at least one-third of all comp claims, resulting in time loss and wage replacement.

Musculoskeletal disorders are also a common cause of long-term disability in the state.

The bill states that many of the state’s critical industries, such as health care, are considered high-risk for musculoskeletal injuries, and these same industries currently experience major staffing shortages, leading employers to pay higher costs for absenteeism, decreased productivity and workers comp claims.

Under the bill, the Department of Labor and Industries would not be permitted to adopt more than one set of rules designed to prevent musculoskeletal injuries within a 12-month period for industries and risk classes that did not previously have such rules.