Getting Up to Speed with the New Ergonomics Rules

Article excerpt

Some new ergonomics rules have been published that every small business owner should be aware of prior to the new year.

First, the long-awaited Occupational Safety and Health Administration's final ergonomics standard was published in the Federal Register. According to the OSHA fact sheet accompanying the announcement of the rules, the standard will formally go into effect on Jan. 16.

It does not apply to the construction, maritime, agriculture or railroad industries. It does cover all general industry employers and 6.1 million work sites with more than 102 million workers.

Do you know anything about these new rules?

Employers are required to begin distributing information on the standard to workers and begin receiving and responding to ergonomics injuries no later than Oct. 14. One reported injury triggers a series of detailed actions by employers.

OSHA's unscientific ruling -- some 1,688 pages of it -- would affect nearly every business in nearly every industry and would be especially onerous on small businesses. The final version of the rules was expanded to cover nearly every aspect of the workplace. If an employee's injury is defined as workplace-related, then the employer is obligated to pay for medical care -- even if the injury occurred outside of work -- and 90 percent of wages for 90 days.

Just one ergonomic injury would trigger the implementation of an ergonomics program for the company work site. "OSHA's new ergonomics rule will place an unbearably costly burden on the nation's small businesses, already drowning in a sea of federal regulations," said Randy Johnson, U.S. Chamber vice president for labor and employee benefits. "This will cost businesses untold billions to comply."

It is estimated that the regulation could cost industry up to $125 billion annually.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already filed a court challenge to these new ergonomic rules. Along with other organizations, the chamber filed suit on Nov. 13, arguing the standard is unnecessarily costly, incomprehensible and illegal. The citation for their lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is: Case No. 00-1477. The lawsuit argues that: medical science does not adequately support the need for OSHA regulation; the standard is too vague and incomprehensible to meet administrative law or constitutional requirements; OSHA produced a fatally flawed economic analysis; and OSHA committed serious procedural violations, including the issuance of completely altered final standard without a new round of public comment. …