Labor Department Plans Public Forums on Ergonomics
The Labor Department plans to announce today that it will hold three public hearings in July to determine how it should act "to regulate -- or not regulate" the workplace conditions that can lead to repetitive stress injuries, the Washington Post reports. Since ergonomic rules promulgated by the Clinton administration were overturned in March, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has been holding meetings with parties interested in the issue. She is expected to make a decision about her department's course on ergonomics regulation in September (Skrzycki, Washington Post, 6/7). On Monday, Chao said that her department will move to devise an ergonomics standard less "precipitous" than the one issued by the Clinton administration. The Post reports that the public meetings will focus on "contentious" issues that "played a role" in the repeal of the Clinton rules: how to define ergonomic injuries, how to determine if injuries are work-related and how the Labor Department should address the issue. The options to be considered include issuing new rules, guidelines to industry or "technical assistance" to companies. "There is a strong commitment from all parties to do something. This is trying to grind out a course of action that would be agreeable. We'd like to hear what people think," a Labor Department official said (Washington Post, 6/7). Chao has faced "tough criticism" at several congressional hearings, and legislation has been introduced that would require the department to issue a final rule within two years. Bill Samuel, legislative director for the AFL-CIO, said, "The big thing for this secretary is ergonomics, and I think she's dug a pretty deep hole. I get the sense that even Republicans are frustrated" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/7). The meetings will be held on July 16 in Washington, D.C., July 20 in Chicago and July 24 in California (Washington Post, 6/7).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.