Ergonomics Alternative in the Works

April 19, 2001 ( - A hearing by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will focus on less onerous alternatives to the previous administration's ergonomics regulation, which was voted against in March.

Although Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter (R- Pennsylvania) voted against the earlier bill, he also argued that the new administration should develop an alternative to protect workers from repetitive motion disorders, according to BNA.

One proposal requires the Department of Labor to define its own standard within two years –with much of the support for this proposal from those who voted against the Clinton administration’s version.

On Tap

The hearing is scheduled for April 26 and will include the testimony of experts, including a representative from the National Academy of Sciences, which authored a study on the relationship between illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorder and workplace exposure to repetitive motion.

Late last month, a companion measure was introduced in the House. As in the Senate bill, H.R. 1241 would provide specific direction for any future rule.

Future regulation would be required to specify when an employer would be obliged to address ergonomic hazards. In addition, such a rule should not conflict with state workers’ compensation programs.

The latter stipulation refers to a provision in the Clinton administration rule that would have required firms to fully compensate injured workers while they recovered. The rule’s supporters had hoped that this would encourage injured workers to report musculoskeletal disorders.

The House bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

– Camilla Klein        

See also Breaux Pushes OSHA Reg Follow-up