Business Gives Qualified Support To New Ergonomics Plan

By John S. McClenahen The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), two of Washington, D.C.'s most potent business lobbies, are wary of the enforcement provisions in the U.S. Labor Department's just-released plan to reduce ergonomic injuries in U.S. workplaces. The department's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced the plan on April 5. Development of specific guidelines to reduce and prevent injuries, and an enforcement crackdown on "bad actors" are two of the plan's five elements. The plan, which might better be termed a proposal since many of its details are yet to be worked out, also calls for OSHA to provide compliance assistance to companies, to give special help to Hispanic and other immigrant workers, and to create a national advisory committee on ergonomics research. "It remains to be seen how new and increased enforcement under [the] guidelines will play out," says Randel Johnson, the Chamber's vice president for labor policy. "While the NAM supports the . . . commitment to enforcement against bad actors, I have serious reservations about the potential for overzealous enforcement and unwarranted litigation," says Jerry J. Jasinowski, the NAM president. The Bush Administration's ergonomics proposal comes nearly a year after Congress rejected a Clinton Administration rule that many businesses considered to be unduly burdensome and complicated.

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