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NLC and Employers Beat Labor on a Big One.

Congress Overturns Ergonomics Rule

Over labor's loud objections and after heated debates, the House joined the Senate March 7 in passing a joint resolution that overturns the ergonomics regulation. This rule was finalized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and President Bill Clinton during the final days of his Administration.

Under the Congressional Review Act, a joint resolution of disapproval from both the Senate and the House may revoke any regulation promulgated by a federal agency. This revised act was part of NLC's federalism agenda with the 106th Congress.

During the Senate debate, Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) cited statistics provided by NLC that helped explain the financial burdens cities would face if the ergonomics rule had been implemented. Thompson stated on the Senate Floor that, "According to the National League of Cities, out of 36,000 cities and towns in America, 91 percent have populations of fewer than 10,000. The average annual budget of these small towns and cities is about $1.6 million. At the end of the day, there is simply no money for lawyers and ergonomics experts ... The National League of Cities, the largest and oldest organization representing the nation's cities and towns, has opposed the regulation from the beginning."

The final ergonomics rule would have created financial burdens for cities. For example, the rule required cities to intervene on behalf of employees who type for more than four hours a day, any objects weighing more than 75 pounds, or handle objects weighing more than 55 pounds in excess of 10 times a day. Even the repetition of a cycle of motion more than twice per minute is deemed to be a problem.

Many of the municipalities that are members of NLC already carry out ergonomics programs. The OSHA final rule would have unnecessarily preempted many of the local standards and processes that are already in place and working.

If the final rule had been implemented, cities as employers would have been required to begin, this year, to inform their city employees about these kinds of ailments and how to report injuries. City employees with these types of injuries would have received medical attention and time off with pay from the city. In addition, cities would have had to work at eliminating or lessening any workplace hazards that caused the problem.

The White House has declared its support for overturning the rule, warning that the Clinton regulation "would cost employers, large and small, billions of dollars annually while providing uncertain new benefits."
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Author:Adams, Ken
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 12, 2001
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