OSHA Pulls a Fast One with Ergonomics Rule.AMID THE CHAOS of the post-presidential election quagmire, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration hastened to push through its controversial ergonomics standard.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a branch of the US Department of Labor responsible for establishing and enforcing safety and health standards in the workplace. sent its final rule to the Office of Management and Budget The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), formerly the Bureau of the Budget, is an agency of the federal government that evaluates, formulates, and coordinates management procedures and program objectives within and among departments and agencies of the Executive Branch. on Nov. 13 to have it published in the Federal Register. By employing its hurry-up offense, OSHA appeared eager to have the rule in place just a few days before the Jan. 20 inauguration of a new president -- regardless of who he is.
Industry groups have rightfully found the timing of OSHA's 11th-hour action to be suspect. OSHA's mad dash to burden American businesses with so sweeping a standard, in spite of myriad unanswered questions about the causes and prevention of ergonomic-related industries, lends credence to those who view this as President Clinton's final pay-off to labor unions. Perhaps the most galling fact of all is that OSHA issued its final ergonomics standard before the completion of a review of ergonomic studies by the National Academy of Sciences. NAS (1) See network access server.
(2) (Network Attached Storage) A specialized file server that connects to the network. A NAS device contains a slimmed-down operating system and a file system and processes only I/O requests by supporting the popular is expected to issue its report in the first quarter of 2001.
Noting that the original ergonomics standard was only published Nov. 23, 1999, Mark Baroody, a spokesman for the 14,000-member-strong National Association of Manufacturers, said, "You cannot do something this big this fast and still do it right. If OSHA were serious about a sensible rulemaking, it simply could not have finalized the ergonomics regulation in less than a year."
Ergonomics Rule Goes to Court
In anticipation of OSHA's move to publish the ergonomics standard, NAM filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Nov. 9. The association's legal challenge contends that the standard is "too broad, overly vague and unsound scientifically."
NAM's challenge was immediately followed by lawsuits filed by several other business groups seeking to block the standard. Chief among them is the National Coalition of Ergonomics, a diverse alliance of associations and businesses. Members include NAM, American Ambulance Assn., Hardwood Plywood & Veneer Assn., Institute of Makers of Explosives, National Beer Wholesalers Assn., and U.S. Chamber of Commerce The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest not-for-profit federation of businesses, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations in the United States. As of 2003, the chamber was comprised of 3000 state and local chambers and 830 business associations. .
Labor and business are light years apart on their positions concerning the pressing need for a federally mandated ergonomics standard that OSHA says will safeguard an estimated 102 million workers at 6.1 million worksites. Consider these diametrically di·a·met·ri·cal also di·a·met·ric
1. Of, relating to, or along a diameter.
2. Exactly opposite; contrary.
di opposed viewpoints:
* AFL-CIO AFL-CIO: see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
in full American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations
U.S. President John Sweeney halls the rule as the "most important worker safety action developed." The NCE NCE Networks of Centres of Excellence
NCE New Chemical Entity (pharmaceutical research)
NCE Normal Curve Equivalent
NCE New Civil Engineer (UK Journal)
NCE Non-Commercial Educational
NCE New Century Energies counters, "OSHA's proposal ... would cost billions of dollars while failing to assure the prevention of even one injury."
* OSHA estimates the annual costs of the standard to employers to be $4.5 billion, based on an estimated annualized annualized
Of or relating to a variable that has been mathematically converted to a yearly rate. Inflation and interest rates are generally annualized since it is on this basis that these two variables are ordinarily stated and compared. cost of $250 to fix each problem job. The Employment Policy Foundation says it will cost businesses $125.6 billion.
* OSHA says ergonomic disorders, including repetitive motion injuries repetitive motion injury Cumulative trauma disorder Occupational medicine A work-related illness–eg, carpal tunnel syndrome caused by overuse of a particular musculoskeletal group to perform a task repeated hundreds to thousands of times/day; it is the such as carpal tunnel syndrome carpal tunnel syndrome: see repetitive stress injury.
carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
Painful condition caused by repetitive stress to the wrist over time. , tendon it is and back injuries, are the country's number one workplace health problem. The NCE, quoting numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
A research agency of the U.S. Department of Labor; it compiles statistics on hours of work, average hourly earnings, employment and unemployment, consumer prices and many other variables. , says, "Repetitive stress injuries represent 4% of the total workplace illness and injury picture....The numbers for these injuries have been trending downward significantly in the past four years -- a 24% decline."
The NCE says it is "dedicated to a full debate concerning ergonomics."
With so much at stake and so little known about the causes and preventions of ergonomic disorders, it is imperative that the courts cool OSHA's jets and let the debate continue.
At least wait until the NAS weighs in with its report. It will more than likely shed light on what path further debate, research and regulation should take.