The ergonomics initiative announced in April was as ethereal as a ghost, and in some senses, just as scary. Business leaders voiced their concern about sketchy outlines of voluntary compliance guidelines OSHA will issue over the next few years, as well as its ergonomics enforcement effort.
OSHA's guidelines will vary by industry based on "best practices." It's not clear how detailed or reasonable they'll be. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill voiced skepticism. Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, says the guidelines could "set the bar so high as to jeopardize small enterprises in my state."
Democrats were even more critical. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over OSHA, calls the initiative "a replay of failed strategies from the past."
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has agreed to award about $137 million in research projects to small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, after considering a reduction of almost 50 percent. The MDA's director, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish (USAF), instead intends to fully fund the program during the fiscal year ending September 30.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.