The House Appropriations Committee voted to amend this year’s biggest spending bill by barring funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed ergonomics standards.
Democrats unsuccessfully defended the original bill when Kentucky Republican Representative Anne Northrup introduced an amendment to stop OSHA from establishing rules to protect workers from musculo-skeletal disorders. OSHA’s plan to establish ergonomics standards has been widely debated since it published its proposal in November 1999.
Northrup’s amendment to the bill comes on the heels of OSHA’s public hearing process. After months of reading written testimonials and listening to over 1,000 people address the proposal in cities across the U.S., OSHA is now facing a serious threat.
The proposed standard addressed work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman contends that an average of 300,000 workers can be spared from painful, potentially disabling, injuries, and $9 billion can be saved each year under the proposed ergonomics program standard. According to OSHA, fewer than 30 percent of general industry employers have effective ergonomics programs in place today.
The bill is part of a $342 billion plan for education, health, labor and welfare programs. It is approximately $6 billion below Clinton’s request. White House budget director Jack Lew followed up with a letter insisting that the president would veto the bill in its current form. Clinton has also indicated he will veto the Senate version of the bill which is about $4 billion more than the House.