Senators Propose New Ergonomics Regulations
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who sided with GOP Congress members in voting last week to kill ergonomics rules issued by the Clinton administration, have proposed new ergonomics legislation that they say "protects workers without putting too heavy a burden on business," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. The legislation, crafted by Breaux, Landrieu and several other senators, would require the secretary of labor to state clearly "the circumstances under which an employer is required to take action to address ergonomics hazards" (Alpert, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/14). The Labor Department would need to inform businesses of these circumstances, as well as what steps they would need to take to comply with the rules, before the regulations took effect (AP/Washington Times, 3/15). In addition, the legislation states that the Labor Department's regulations "should not supersede state workers' compensation rules or authority already given" to OSHA. "The idea is to get something that can become law," Breaux said. Landrieu and Breaux said that the Clinton administration rules were "confusing and could require businesses to adopt expensive ergonomics programs if just one worker suffered an ergonomics injury" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/14). Breaux added, "Every objection that I heard, I think has been taken care of in the [legislation]." The new legislation will be attached as an amendment to the bankruptcy bill slated for a vote in the Senate this week. While Senate Republicans "stopped short" of endorsing the proposal, Breaux is confident it will be approved. "I do not for the life of me understand why this would not be something that should not be unanimously agreed to," he said (AP/Washington Times, 3/15).
Business groups and opponents of the Clinton administration regulations called the original rules too broad, too vague and too costly. But businesses now say "a compromise can be found." U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Jack Clark said, "Everybody is pretty receptive" to the proposal (Los Angeles Times, 3/15). Labor groups, however, are adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude on the issue (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/14). Unions have said that while they "preferred" the Clinton-issued rules, they consider the new regulations "a step forward" (AP/Washington Times, 3/15). John Bourg, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, said that he would "consider the merits of the proposed alternative" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/14).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.