By Michael A. Verespej By this fall, manufacturers should have a better idea of what approach the Bush Administration will take with regard to ergonomics regulation. The U.S. Dept. of Labor plans to hold hearings this July in Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles to determine what approach it should take to regulate workplace conditions that trigger repetitive motion injuries and how to identify such injuries. The decision by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to reopen the ergonomics issue comes less than three months after Congress repealed the ergonomics regulations passed in the waning days of the Clinton Administration. Under terms of that repeal, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cannot issue regulations that are substantially similar to its original proposal that took nearly 11 years to develop. It's expected that Chao will make her preliminary recommendations by September, emphasizing either voluntary guidelines or a flexible regulatory approach that aims to prevent such injuries through cooperative approaches in the workplace. It's estimated that there are 1 million ergonomic injuries annually in U.S. workplaces. Ergonomics regulations would cover as many as 102 million workers.