VOODOO ERGONOMICS? – EPF Takes OSHA Estimates to Task

August 25, 2000 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A recent survey by the Employment Policy Foundation suggests that proposed ergonomic standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would cost American businesses much more than OSHA's projections.

EPF estimates the annual cost at an average of $91 billion a year over the next decade.

The projections are in sharp contrast with OSHA’s estimates of just $4.2 billion per year, and no more than $54.8 billion over a ten year period.

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The Foundation also claims that the benefits of the ergonomics rule will be only $6.1 billion annually.

Too “Good” To Be True?

According to BNA’s Daily Labor Report, the EPF study claims that OSHA’s estimates “failed to compile empirical estimates of the resources and labor effort that employers would have to expend to implement and comply with the proposed regulation.” 

In essence, OSHA assumed that employers were moving faster on a voluntary basis toward compliance with the proposed standards – and thus underestimated the true additional costs of the proposal.

The study also claimed that OSHA overestimated the current employer compliance rate.

EPF says small businesses would be particularly hard hit by the proposed ergonomics standard, with annualized individual small business costs of $12,511.

BNA adds that while EPF did not say how many people it surveyed, it noted, respondents “to this survey represented every major industry category and their answers represent actual experience in conducting safety and health program activities in over 19,000 establishments and for 1.7 million employees.”

OSHA published its ergonomics proposal in November 1999. The rule would require employers in manual handling and manufacturing operations to implement ergonomics programs in their workplaces.

In addition, the standard would be triggered in any workplace once one musculoskeletal disorder is reported. The proposal does not apply to agriculture, maritime operations, or construction.