Ergonomics rule

Author Subject: Ergonomics rule
Watchdog Posted At 15:13:58 03/07/2001
House Republican leaders are expected to follow the Senate's lead and overturn Clinton administration regulations aimed at reducing repetitive-motion injuries in the workplace.

GOP aides said a vote was likely by early Wednesday evening on the measure. Passage would send the bill to President Bush, who has signaled he would sign it.

"We have a new rule that's been promulgated that would cause extreme damage to our workplace," Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., said as debate began on the House floor.

Democrats argued otherwise. "We should not turn our backs on progress just because private interests think it's the right thing to do for their bottom line," Democratic leader Gephardt said in a written statement.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans served notice that Mr. Clinton's 11th hour issuance of a federal regulation favored by organized labor will not stand.

The 56-44 vote came hours after the Bush administration publicly threw its support behind the measure, saying the regulations would impose a "vague and cumbersome" and costly burden on business.

Aiming to kill the regulations and prevent similar standards from being issued, the Republican senators employed a provision never before used to kill regulations issued by federal agencies, reports CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

The new ergonomics rules, imposed four days before President Bush took office, are "the largest regulatory mandate ever imposed on business, and it's the right time to use the Congressional Review Act," said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.

"There is no way in the world that a lot of companies could comply with these rules," claimed Sen. Don Nickels, R-Okla.

Organized labor is fighting the move to kill the regulations, which could force companies to alter workstations, redesign facilities or change tools and equipment once employees are found to suffer work-related injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has estimated the rules would cost businesses about $4.5 billion in compliance costs but would result in $9 billion in savings by reducing injuries. Officials say 1.8 million workers in the United States have injuries related to ergonomics, with 600,000 missing work each year as a result.

Business groups put the cost of compliance much higher, at more than $90 billion a year. They also oppose a measure that would grant full pay and benefits for 90 days to workers with repetitive-motion injuries who get put on temporary work restrictions. Workers temporarily removed from their jobs would receive 90 percent of pay and 100 percent of benefits.

Nickles, who led the effort to kill the new regulations, said the payment requirements effectively wipe out existing states' worker compensation laws and are too "expensive and intrusive."

But Democrats accused the GOP of being a puppet of big business.

"What do you think this is about? It's about bucks. It's about money. Instead of helping hard-working Americans, this resolution is a big thank-you to big business for all their support" of Republicans, said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "It's politics at its worst. And it leaves average American workers defenseless against today's workplace injuries."

"We heard the same voices when they opposed the OSHA program," Kennedy said of the workplace safety agency created amid political controversy almost three decades ago. "Well, I'll tell you this: It's reduced the number of deaths in the workplace by half."

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said she will pursue a new "comprehensive approach" to dealing with workplace injuries caused by repetitive motion if Congress repeals the rules this week.

Chao, in a letter sent Tuesday to Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said she would consider new regulations "that will provide employers with achievable measures that protect their employees before injuries occur."

Steve Meyers Re: Ergonomics rule (Currently 0 replies)
Posted At 12:33:52 06/14/2001

I have recently overcome a repetitive stress injury that had bothered me for over three years. Looking back, I realize it could have easily been prevented if I had been aware of the risk factors I was exposed to. Everyone should be made aware of such risk factors and whatever preventitive measures needed should be taken. It's a matter of being proactive versus reactive. My employer lost revenues because I wasn't there do get jobs done, had to pay for my absence and my medical bills, and almost had to replace me which would have been even costlier. When an injury like this occurs, not only does the injured suffer, but so does the employer and fellow employee. All this could have been prevented if this ergonomics rule was in place. Any businessman or congressman who opposes this obviously has not suffered a repetitive stress injury. I am embarassed in our system of government, if they could shun such a proposal. It's like legalizing rape.

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