From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

New Rules and Proposed Legislation Could Affect Ergonomics On State Levels

A June 2003 ruling in Maryland has modified a former interpretation of the state’s workers compensation laws to make it easier for injured employees to receive compensation.

Previously, wording was interpreted to permit injured workers to receive compensation of wages and medical expenses only if the injury occurred as a result of an unusual occurrence at work but not if the injury was incurred in the regular course of business.

The ruling came as a result of a Maryland Court of Appeals decision to award compensation to a public school employee’s work-related disabling back injury. It is estimated that the new interpretation could increase workers’ compensation costs in Maryland by around $100 million.

Also, this fall, voters in Washington will have the opportunity to offer their say regarding ergonomics regulations when Initiative 841, a measure that would repeal the state’s ergonomics rule, appears on the ballot.

Sponsored by Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) President Randy Gold, the initiative requests a repeal of the state’s ergonomics rule, set to take effect in July 2004. To earn a place on the ballot, supporters of the initiative turned in 260,000 signatures of support. An estimated $350,000 was spent by BIAW and other ergonomics rule opponents, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Association of Washington Business and the Washington Farm Bureau, on the initiative.

Initiative supporters claim it will cost businesses over $725 million each year to comply with the existing ergonomics rule. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries estimates the figure to be about 10 percent of that, around $70 million.

Editor’s note: The previous story was updated on August 7, 2003 to reflect the State of Washington’s verification of the signatures that confirmed the initiative’s placement on the ballot.

Sources: Seattle Times; Washington Post