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An Ergonomic War

OSHA and the GOP clash over a new rule

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This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Republicans are on the warpath, and the target is familiar. The GOP is mounting an effort to prevent OSHA from issuing a final rule dictating what companies must do to protect their workers from repetitive motion injuries. This ergonomics rule, due out this fall after extensive nationwide hearings and about eight years of planning, has become a rallying point for business groups concerned that it would unnecessarily increase their operating costs.

OSHA issued a proposed rule in November 1999 saying that a company, no matter what its size, would have to institute a major six-point ergonomics program once a single worker reports a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) that was suffered on the job and meets OSHA's criteria. (See March's "Capitol Issues" for more of the proposal's specifics.) The agency included a number of concessions for small businesses, including a "quick fix" alternative that would allow a company to bypass the six-point program by correcting a hazard within 90 days and checking within 30 days to see that the fix works. But as small-business groups began to pour through the 300-page Federal Register notice, their resistance rose.

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