Study Supports Clinton Administration Ergonomics Regulations
Work-related repetitive stress injuries "impose a significant economic burden" -- $50 billion per year in compensation costs, lost wage and lost productivity," according to a Congress-commissioned study by the National Academy of Sciences. The study also says that there is a "clear relationship" between heavy lifting and repetitive movement and the occurrence of back strains and carpal-tunnel syndrome. The Wall Street Journal reports that the study "endorses many of the arguments" the Clinton administration has used to defend regulations that would require employers to eliminate or "sharply reduce" repetitive stress hazards, provide injured workers with medical care and time off at reduced pay and train employees to recognize ergonomics-related injuries. The regulations will affect nearly 102 million employees. While the administration's regulations took effect this week, they will not be enforced until mid-October. President-elect Bush's advisers say that his administration is likely to block the rules' implementation to either revise or overturn them. Business groups have opposed the regulations, saying that they would cost too much -- $125.8 billion per year -- to implement. Clinton administration estimates put that figure at $4.8 billion per year (Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, 1/18). Randy Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "This study clearly does not support a regulation as broad as OSHA issued, by OSHA's own estimates covering over 100 million employees." But Rep. George Miller (D), the ranking minority member on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said, "The NAS study clearly and unambiguously concludes that there is substantial scientific justification for the ergonomics regulations sought by the Clinton administration" (Greenhouse, New York Times, 1/18). For information on how to obtain a copy of the report, go to http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10032.html?onpi_topnews#0117This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.