From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Reaction to OSHA’s Ergonomics Strategy

Just days after OSHA announced a comprehensive ergonomics strategy, including “targeted guidelines and tough enforcement,” here’s what is being said.

US Chamber of Commerce
“The United States Chamber of Commerce expressed qualified support for [the April 5th] call by Labor Secretary Chao for further evidence-gathering on [musculoskeletal disorders], for education outreach, and for new industry-by-industry guidelines. The Labor Department proposal also included a stepped-up enforcement program, which may prove problematic.”

“With researchers on all sides scratching their heads about the causes of these types of injuries, we must take the time to craft rules without sacrificing science,” said Chamber Vice President for Labor Policy Randel Johnson. “It remains to be seen how new and increased enforcement under these guidelines will play out, but overall the Department of Labor has proposed a balanced approach.”

“The Bush administration has rightfully put science ahead of politics in laying out its proposal on ergonomics,” said Johnson. “The business community will be fully engaged in every aspect of this debate going forward and will oppose legislation requiring OSHA to issue a mandatory regulation.”

“After more than a year of delays, the Bush administration announced April 5 a weak and unenforceable ‘plan’ that offers workers no real protections against the nation’s biggest job safety problem-ergonomic injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by repetitive motions, heavy lifting and poorly designed work.”

“With today’s announcement the Bush administration again caters to corporate special interests and abdicates its responsibility to protect workers,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Sweeney called the announcement “a meaningless measure that yet again delays action and provides no protection against ergonomic hazards-the nation’s biggest safety problem.”

“Exactly how the Labor Department would implement even its limited plan is a mystery. Bush has proposed cutting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement and training budget by more than $10 million and the job safety research funding by $20 million.”

Senator Kit Bond (Republican, MO)
“The Department of Labor’s announcement that OSHA will combat workplace ergonomic injuries through a new strategy of providing employers guidance, information and assistance, rather than a heavy-handed regulation, is ‘just what Congress ordered.’

“With the demise of the previous ergo regulation, many people assumed that OSHA would embark on a new rulemaking and simply try to do it better. But the Clinton Administration’s effort proved that attempting to regulate in this area is so difficult, and that the science supporting it is so weak, a whole different approach is needed to help reduce painful, workplace injuries.. I particularly applaud creating an advisory committee for ergonomic research to identify gaps in the scientific research”.

“The Labor Department’s new strategy is a sensible and appropriate approach, particularly for small businesses owners. Guidance will help get the injury rate down further and faster. OSHA will be able to move quicker under a guidelines approach than under regulations. Guidelines can be updated as new information becomes available and the science changes.”

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
The Department of Labor’s new “focus on education and training to prevent ergonomics injuries promises to be more effective than reliance on new regulation and litigation, and far less disruptive of the workplace,” said Jerry Jasinowski, President of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“The Labor Department’s determination to advance research into ergonomics and aggressively disseminate information to employers and their employees is the most effective way to reduce injuries related to repetitive motion,” Jasinowski said. “Creation of a national advisory board will assure that this important subject receives the attention it deserves, and that the decline in ergonomics injuries documented in recent years will continue.

“While the NAM supports the Secretary’s commitment to enforcement against bad actors, I have serious reservations about the potential for overzealous enforcement and unwarranted litigation,” Jasinowski concluded.

Susan O’Brien, NYCOSH Assistant Director: “Last April the Secretary of Labor made a commitment to develop a comprehensive approach to preventing ergonomic injuries. We are very disappointed that today, after nearly a year’s work on that project, all OSHA has to show for it is a 3-page outline of a plan to develop a comprehensive program.”

“Instead of an enforceable regulation, OSHA says that it will now, nearly a year after it promised to begin doing something to protect workers from ergonomic hazards, begin to develop ‘industry-specific guidelines’ to prevent ergonomic injuries. Which industries? OSHA says it will only begin to find and answer to that question next week. How many industries? OSHA doesn’t know. How many workers will be covered?”

Elizabeth Kelleher, NYCOSH ergonomics coordinator: “OSHA offers no explanation for turning away from the old ergonomics standard’s ‘task-specific’ approach in favor of an ‘industry-specific.’ approach. There is no scientific reason for the change, but it is certain to have one effect: it will result in a long delay before most workers have any guidelines that apply to them.”

Omar Henriquez, NYCOSH Youth and Immigrant Program Coordinator: “OSHA says that its plan ‘includes a specialized focus to help Hispanic and other immigrant workers.’ NYCOSH is gratified that OSHA expresses special concern for those vulnerable workers, but we know that immigrant workers would be much better protected from ergonomic hazards by an enforceable regulation instead of a promise to develop largely voluntary guidelines at some unspecified time in the future.”

USA Today
“The government’s long-awaited unveiling of a plan to reduce ergonomic injuries is expected to have little short-term effect on businesses, experts say.”

If you or your organization has an official statement on the proposal, send it to