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A Higher Standard: The CSA Standard for Office Ergonomics has changed

I have had the privilege of serving as a member of the Canadian Standards Association’s Technical Committee (TC) on Office Ergonomics.  This time I was representing the Association of Canadian Ergonomists/Association Canadienne d’Ergonomie in the preparation of the new application standard for workplace ergonomics on Office Ergonomics, known as CSA Z412-17.

Evolution to a standard

The CSA uses Technical Committees (TC) to develop standards.  The TC has a balanced representation in the categories of producers, regulatory authorities, labour, management, and general interest.  Once the TC proposes and develops the requirements, a draft standard is sent out for public comment.  The TC reviews the comments received, modifies the wording as appropriate, and votes on the document using a balloting process.

The CSA also has a process for deciding when a standard needs updating.  For example, the first standard, Office Ergonomics A National Standard of Canada was published in 1989.  The review process identified that consumer and public interest groups were recommending an updated version to address the changes in computer technology and office work.

When the second edition, Guideline on Office Ergonomics (Z412-00) was published in 2000 the overall structure of the standard was changed significantly.  It was a process-oriented document and provided a step-by-step outline for including and implementing ergonomics into the design and layout of office jobs, work organization, environmental conditions and workstation design.  It addressed the growing awareness about musculoskeletal injuries and the role that ergonomics plays in controlling these risks when using, for example, laptop computers, larger computer screens and a variety of input devices.  The standard was also expanded to include guidance on the lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of loads and materials.

The current standard is “Office ergonomics – An application standard for workplace ergonomics”.  It was released in December 2017 under the jurisdiction of CSA’s Strategic Steering Committee on Occupational Health and Safety.  It keeps the same objective as Z412-00 since it applies ergonomics to enhance user health, safety, and well-being and to optimize system performance to prevent or reduce the severity of occupational injuries and illnesses related to occupational activities in offices.

What does the standard mean for employers?

Provincial occupational health and safety legislation places responsibility on employers for providing an occupational environment that protects the health and safety of workers and prevents work-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses.  The legislation applies to all work environments, including the office workspace, and includes the requirement to reduce the severity of harm related to occupational activities.

CSA Z412-17 describes responsibilities health and safety legislation places on the employer.  The inclusion of the mandatory “shall” requirements in the CSA Standard makes it possible for provincial health and safety agencies to adopt Z412-17 as a standard for compliance.

As required under legislation, employers must take all reasonable steps to protect workers from harm.  In general terms the phrase “all reasonable steps” is based on the level of judgment and care that a person would reasonably be expected to do under similar circumstances.  An organization that actively manages health and safety and takes all reasonable steps to protect workers from harm would be duly diligent.

CSA Z412-17 helps the employer in this regard.  The implementation of CSA Z412-17 within a workplace demonstrates that the employer is using best practice since health and safety is being actively managed and reasonable steps are being taken to provide for the health and safety of their workers.

Stay informed!

You can purchase your copy of CSA Z412-17 here

The views and professional opinions expressed in this article are those of Geoff Wright and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of any organizations that Geoff Wright may be associated or affiliated with. It is intended solely for educational purposes and is written to give general information and provide a general understanding of ergonomics. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information provided. The information may not be applicable or suitable to your circumstances and should not be a substitute for advice from a certified professional ergonomist and/or other qualified professionals.

By Geoff Wright

Geoff Wright serves on the CSA Z412-17 Technical Committee as the representative of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists / Association Canadienne d’Ergonomie. He is a Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) with a Ph. D. in Ergonomics, a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) and a Certified Professional Ergonomist in Canada (CCPE), the USA (CPE), and the U K (F. Erg. S).

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