Politics & Government

Battle over ergonomic standards might return

Remember ergonomics?

Expect the political hot potato of 2000-2001 to be juggled again this year.

Among a raft of regulatory crackdowns promised by the Obama administration are tougher rules governing repetitive-motion activity at work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration intends to revisit a long-running dispute that came to a head when Congress, in the early days of the Bush administration, wiped out ergonomic standards set in the Clinton administration.

Invoking the rare Congressional Review Act, the government in 2001 overturned ergonomic standards that OSHA began to research in 1979 and that were enacted in 2000.

Employers fought the rules, which would cost money to implement.

Hundreds of pages of regulations addressed employee training, analysis of job hazards, provision of proper equipment and procedures, and medical management of musculoskeletal injuries associated with on-the-job repetitive-motion stress.

At the height of the furor, Republican Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri called the standards "overreaching" and "a monument to regulatory excess."

On the other side, Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said, "If corporate CEOs were experiencing these injuries instead of secretaries and cashiers, we would see a very different policy."

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