Safety Regulations: Barriers to Employment in a Manufacturing Environment

Scott Haynes

Industry experts agree that the use of automated (computer controlled) technology in today’s manufacturing facilities can reduce the physical and/or sensory requirements of the machine operator, increase the need for employee training, and create a demand for skilled computer-oriented workers. Given the advances in today’s assistive technology industry, this trend toward computer controlled machines may provide unique opportunities for employment of people with disabilities in manufacturing. However, unlike many other work environments, occupational hazards in manufacturing have the potential for serious safety and health consequences. Federal law, through the Occupational Safety and Health Act, makes it the responsibility of manufacturing employers to ensure a safe work environment for their employees. Therefore, the vocational rehabilitation (VR) professional should be prepared to play a role in helping the prospective employer to understand how employees with disabilities can not only operate the necessary equipment, but also meet the necessary safety regulations. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) regulation and enforcement structure and will provide examples of federal court rulings relating to OSHA regulations and the employment of people with disabilities in various manufacturing occupations. The goal of this presentation is to raise awareness regarding the challenges to potential employers presented by safety regulations and to suggest ways that VR professionals can assist in addressing these concerns appropriately.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-14
Slides 15-27

Scott Haynes, MBME received his Master of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 1993 and his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1986. He worked for five years in the manufacturing Industry as a research and development engineer, helping to develop automatic packaging and processing equipment. He worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation (VR) as an assistive technology provider supporting Georgia’s State VR program. Mr. Haynes has served on two national committees working to develop test standards for wheelchair cushions and other support surfaces. He is currently helping to direct two development projects within the Workplace Accommodations RERC. One project is the development of an integrated computer workstation for people with chronic low back pain. The second project involves research and development of accessible manufacturing work environments centered on the use of automated manufacturing technology.

Presentation from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference, September 15-16, 2005, Atlanta, GA