From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Chao Outlines Ergonomics in Senate Testimony

R. Michael M.Sc., AEP

On Thursday, April 26, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao testified before the Senate’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In her testimony, Chao outlined principles for an approach to the complicated issue of ergonomics that emphasize prevention, and clarity in any new rules.

“It is vitally important that we avoid a repeat of the last ergonomics standard,” commented Chao. “It would be wise to consider the factors that preceded last month’s vote by Congress before charting
a new course.”

During her time as Labor Secretary, Chao has meet with a number of business, employee, and employer groups. Of these meetings she said, “One thing is clear from these meetings: there is no consensus on the ergonomics issue. The stakeholders who have come to the Department of Labor to discuss ergonomics are
coming from completely different positions, ranging from those who want no action to those who thought that the previous rule did not go far enough.”

In providing a new ergonomics approach that fits the workplace of the 21st century, Chao offered the following principles for a starting point

  • Prevention
  • Sound Science
  • Incentive-Driven
  • Flexibility
  • Feasibility
  • Clarity

Concerning the just released BLS data Chao said, “Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data on job-related injuries and illnesses for 1999. The data show that there has been a continuing decline in musculoskeletal disorders that result in employees missing time from work. Employers reported 582,300 such injuries in 1999, down from 592,500 in 1998 and from more than 763,000 in 1993. This 25 percent decline has occurred even though more Americans were in the workforce. While I’m encouraged
by this progress, I also recognize that musculoskeletal disorders remain nearly one-third of all work-related injuries.”

Complete transcript of Chao’s comments.