Mayor Blasts OSHA at Ergonomics Hearing

Article excerpt

Mayor Ted Tedesco of Ames, Iowa was in Washington, D.C. last week to testify on behalf of NLC at the Department of Labor on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) proposed rule on ergonomics. The mayor testified before an OSHA-appointed panel and an administrative law judge. Speaking for cities nationwide, he argued that the rule should be withdrawn because it is ambiguous, contradictory and full of potentially devastating ramifications for cities.

One of the primary contradictions contained in the proposed rule is that on the one hand, OSHA states that its targets are private sector businesses in the manufacturing and industrial sectors such as chicken processing plants. On the other hand, the provisions of the rule are triggered upon the repeating of a singular incident of a musculo-skeltal disorder (MSD) to any employer. Two later provisions seem to cast wide the net of affected employers to include municipal employers. Mayor Tedesco pointed out that if dries are covered, the most disturbing feature of the proposed rule is that it displays a profound distrust of states and localities and their employment policies. The rule preempts existing programs that have been implemented by dries across America.

NLC has contacted OSHA on several occasions questioning the scope and applicability of the proposed rule. The agency has not responded to NLC's requests. Local elected officials have been unable to find out whether jobs in the municipal sector are exempt from the proposed rule, which is intended for manufacturing industries.

Mayor Tedesco passionately argued that, "OSHA's proposed rule poses a financial impossibility for cities. As drafted, the rule is an unfunded federal mandate of infinite proportions." The proposed rule would require cities to launch formal ergonomics programs, create alternate jobs for employees, and cover six months of rehabilitation pay. These procedures would be extremely costly and would require cities to raise taxes or cut vital services in order to meet the financial burden imposed by OSHA.

In addition to OSHA's refusal to provide any response to NLC questions, Mayor Tedesco criticized its efforts to implement a sweeping new set of regulations at the same time that Congress is awaiting a report on ergonomics from the National Academy of Science (NAS). "Given the level of uncertainty and the amount of controversy surrounding the proposed rule, coupled with the NAS study, it is premature for OSHA to decide whether a regulation on ergonomics in necessary or appropriate," Mayor Tedesco said. …