Bush Administration Introduces New Voluntary Ergonomics Policy
As expected, the Bush administration on Friday unveiled a new initiative to protect workers from repetitive-stress injuries by asking companies to meet voluntary new safety guidelines, the New York Times reports. The move comes 13 months after Congress and President Bush repealed ergonomics regulations issued by the Clinton administration, which had called for mandatory enforcement measures (Greenhouse, New York Times, 4/6). The new plan outlined by the Labor Department contains four elements:
- Within six months, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will develop voluntary guidelines for industries with high rates of muscular-skeletal injuries (Chen, Wall Street Journal, 4/8).
- While the guidelines will not be mandatory, OSHA Director John Henshaw said that his agency will bring enforcement actions against "industries that had high injury rates and took few steps to reduce them" (New York Times, 4/8). OSHA will develop "specialized ergonomic inspection teams that will prosecute when necessary," USA Today reports (Armour, USA Today, 4/8). While Henshaw did not say which industries OSHA might focus on, nursing homes are among those with the highest rates of workplace-related injuries.
- The administration will offer "stepped-up compliance assistance" to help train companies and workers on how to reduce workplace injuries. Hispanic workers will be targeted specifically because they have a higher rate of workplace injuries and death because of their greater participation in the "worst low-end jobs" (New York Times, 4/6).
- Finally, officials will develop a national advisory committee to study ergonomics issues and advise OSHA (USA Today, 4/6).
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