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Regulatory Rumble

The successful movement to stall OSHA's Ergonomics Rule shows how you can help shape the federal regulatory process-and maybe avoid a pain in the neck.

This story appears in the July 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs narrowly dodged a bullet this year. If OSHA had had its way, your company would have been subject to a huge new set of ergonomics standards starting October 14. The 1,600-page rule, imposed just four days before former President Clinton left office, would have required businesses of all sizes to establish expensive ergonomics programs if two employees complained of repetitive stress injuries. But after business groups flooded Congress with objections, both the House and Senate voted in early March to nullify the rule, proving that business owners who make the effort to get involved can have a say in the regulations that will govern their companies.

The issues here are so complex and opinions so strong that OSHA, which had been exploring repetitive stress injuries for the past decade, received more public comments on its proposed ergonomics rule than on any other rule since 1988. In light of the controversy, both houses of Congress voted last fall to postpone implementation of the rule to allow further study. But OSHA forged ahead and issued its final rule. Immediately the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resources Management, the National Federation of Independent Business and numerous other business advocacy groups sued to stop the agency, filing 31 separate lawsuits claiming that it ignored many of the suggestions made during the public comment phase.

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