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An Ergonomic War

OSHA and the GOP clash over a new rule

By Stephen Barlas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Republicans are on the warpath, and the target is familiar. TheGOP is mounting an effort to prevent OSHA from issuing a final ruledictating what companies must do to protect their workers fromrepetitive motion injuries. This ergonomics rule, due out this fallafter extensive nationwide hearings and about eight years ofplanning, has become a rallying point for business groups concernedthat it would unnecessarily increase their operating costs.

OSHA issued a proposed rule in November 1999 saying that acompany, no matter what its size, would have to institute a majorsix-point ergonomics program once a single worker reports amusculoskeletal disorder (MSD) that was suffered on the job andmeets OSHA's criteria. (See March's "CapitolIssues" for more of the proposal's specifics.) The agencyincluded a number of concessions for small businesses, including a"quick fix" alternative that would allow a company tobypass the six-point program by correcting a hazard within 90 daysand checking within 30 days to see that the fix works. But assmall-business groups began to pour through the 300-page FederalRegister notice, their resistance rose.

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