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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.

By Steven C. Bahls

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs narrowly dodged a bullet this year. If OSHA hadhad its way, your company would have been subject to a huge new setof 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 expensiveergonomics programs if two employees complained of repetitivestress injuries. But after business groups flooded Congress withobjections, both the House and Senate voted in early March tonullify the rule, proving that business owners who make the effortto get involved can have a say in the regulations that will governtheir companies.

The issues here are so complex and opinions so strong that OSHA,which had been exploring repetitive stress injuries for the pastdecade, received more public comments on its proposed ergonomicsrule than on any other rule since 1988. In light of thecontroversy, both houses of Congress voted last fall to postponeimplementation of the rule to allow further study. But OSHA forgedahead and issued its final rule. Immediately the U.S. Chamber ofCommerce, the Society for Human Resources Management, the NationalFederation of Independent Business and numerous other businessadvocacy groups sued to stop the agency, filing 31 separatelawsuits claiming that it ignored many of the suggestions madeduring the public comment phase.

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