Bush Administration May Not Unveil New Ergonomics Rule Until After Spring Congressional Recess
The Bush administration may not unveil a new ergonomics rule until after the spring congressional recess in April, CongressDaily/AM reports. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which planned to hold a hearing on the issue last Thursday, cancelled the meeting at the request of the administration. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education last week also cancelled a hearing on the issue. CongressDaily/AM reports that the decisions to cancel the hearings have left some observers "wondering if the administration ever will find time for the divisive" ergonomics issue. After lawmakers last March repealed an ergonomics rule issued by the Clinton administration, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao promised to propose a new ergonomics regulation to Congress by last September. However, the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon forced the Labor Department to delay a decision on a new rule, and the collapse of the energy company Enron late last year prompted an additional delay. Jill Pomeroy, associate director of employment policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, which opposed the Clinton administration ergonomics rule as "too far-reaching," said, "I think the longer they put it off, the more difficult it's going to be. It's seems before Sept. 11 that they were really on track, but they've suffered a setback."
However, some lawmakers and labor groups are "growing tired of waiting" for a proposal, CongressDaily/AM reports. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said, "It's been a year since they made a promise that they were going to work on something. They're just trying to see if they can get by, doing nothing." Peg Seminario, director of occupational safety and health at the AFL-CIO, said, "The bottom line is they (the administration) don't want to do anything. They think people are just going to go away, but we're not." The AFL-CIO, along with Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and other lawmakers, have begun to draft legislation that could require the Labor Department to issue a new ergonomics rule within two years (Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 3/11). The Clinton administration ergonomics rule would have required employers to design and implement comprehensive ergonomics programs, educate their workers about the symptoms and risks of cumulative trauma disorders and reassign employees unable to perform certain physical tasks to different tasks. The rule also would have required employers to compensate employees with musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive stress with up to 90% of their normal wages for the first three months they were out of work recuperating (California Healthline, 1/16/01).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.