Ergonomics Challenge Looms

March 5, 2001 ( - A resolution opposing new ergonomics standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could come up for a vote as early as March 6.

Last week Senators Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark) introduced a Senate resolution (S.J. Res. 6) calling for congressional disapproval of the Clinton administration’s ergonomics standard, according to BNA Labor Daily. 

The vote could be the first test of the Congressional Review Act, designed to provide streamlined procedures for Congress to overturn federal regulations. However, the 1996 law does not offer a similar expedited procedure for the House.  Still, if it passes both houses, President Bush is expected to sign it.

Meanwhile the AFL-CIO is gearing up to oppose the challenge to the new rules, claiming that if the new ergonomics standard is repudiated, OSHA would be barred from issuing a similar regulation – forever.

The ergonomics standard is already the subject of 31 separate lawsuits that have been consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

OSHA issued the new standard last November, requiring employers to address hazards in the workplace that can cause musculoskeletal disorders.  While it went into effect Jan. 16, employers do not have to be in initial compliance with the requirements until October 2001.

OSHA claims the ruling will affect 6.1 million employers and 102 million employees in general industry at an average cost of $250 for each problem job.  Opponents claim the costs will be significantly higher, forcing many small businesses to close up shop.