Breaux Bill Sets Timer for Dol Ergonomics Rules

April 26, 2002 ( - The US Department of Labor (DoL) would have two years to come up with new workplace ergonomics standards under a new Senate bill.

The proposal by Senator John Breaux, (D-Louisiana) virtually duplicates a bill he put forward last year.

The latest Breaux bill, SB 2184, has 23 Senate co-sponsors, according to a news report by HR News Online.

“This two-year implementation period comes at the end of two decades of the federal government identifying an ergonomics problem, but creating no national policy to correct it,” the HR News Online report quoted Breaux as saying. “I believe a federal regulation is not only warranted, but it is the only way to ensure our nation’s ergonomics problems are addressed.”

The legislation would require that any new federal labor rule clearly define under what circumstances an employer is required to address ergonomic hazards and what standards will be used to measure the employers’ performance.

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney hailed the new proposed legislation and said an ergonomics proposal from President Bush “would make working for a living even more dangerous than it is today by cutting funding for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforcement, worker training, and research on workplace health and safety hazards.”

DoL Secretary Elaine Chao has had an extremely high public profile lately in pushing the administration’s ergonomics plan.

Business Groups Opposed

Business groups were expectedly apprehensive about Breaux’s bill.
 “We think that Secretary Chao’s plan should be given time to work and that a controversial floor battle over Senator Breaux’s bill will distract from the implementation of that plan,” said a spokesperson from the US Chamber of Commerce.

“Secretary Chao has put together a comprehensive plan to reduce work-related ergonomic injuries in the workplace,” said Sarah Pierce, manager of employment legislation at the Society for Human Resource Management. “Senator Breaux’s new bill does not afford the DoL, nor OSHA, the opportunity to put industry-specific guidelines and reasonable enforcement measures to the test.”