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Panel Moves to Block Ergonomics Rule

May 20, 1999| From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee has moved to block the federal government from establishing a wide-ranging workplace ergonomic regulation until a scientific study on the matter is complete.

"We must ensure that labor laws serve the interest of American workers and do not work against them or their jobs," said Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.), chairman of the House subcommittee on workforce protection.

Ergonomics is the science of matching jobs with physical abilities and characteristics.

Some say ergonomic standards in the workplace could help curb repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, the painful damage to the wrists often associated with working on a computer keyboard.

The Republican-controlled subcommittee approved a bill prohibiting the government from imposing a national standard on workplace ergonomics until an $890,000 study by the National Academy of Science on industrial ergonomic hazards is complete.

Congress funded the study last year to determine the legitimacy of and possible solutions to ergonomic problems. The bill will now be considered by the full Committee on Education and Workforce.

Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman opposes the measure and would recommend that President Clinton veto the bill if it passes in its current form, a Labor Department spokeswoman said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed an ergonomics standard in February that would cover manufacturing and manual handling operations except for the construction, maritime and agriculture industries.

Enforcement of the standard would be triggered by a reported injury and the presence of known hazards.

Employers would be required to provide a system for employees to report workplace injuries, establish a hazard identification system, and provide training about hazards and what the company is doing to control them.

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