Ergonomics Standards to Take Effect in 2001

The Clinton administration has issued a final rule requiring employers to create programs to protect workers from repetitive-motion injuries. The ergonomics standards will take effect in January 2001, and businesses will have until October 2001 to be in full compliance.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claims that ergonomics regulations will save billions of dollars a year due to fewer worker compensation claims. However, many businesses argue that implementing the regulations would cost them billions of dollars in additional costs annually.

The new rules say that virtually all the nation's employers must adapt the workplace to the science of ergonomics, requiring employers to fit jobs better to the physical limitations of their workers, according to The Washington Post.

OSHA officials say they hope the new rule will cut in half over the next decade the 600,000 repetitive-stress injuries that result in lost work time each year. Organized labor had pushed for the regulations, which could force companies to alter work stations, redesign facilities, or change tools once employees are found to suffer work-related injuries.

According to OSHA, the rules would cost businesses some $4.5 billion to implement but would reap $9 billion a year in savings from reduced medical expenses and worker compensation.

Walter B McCormick Jr, president and chief executive officer of The American Trucking Associations (ATA), said he is not in favor of the ergonomics regulations.

"ATA strongly supports workplace safety and injury reduction, but we cannot endorse this flawed and irrational rule," McCormick said. "It is not based on sound scientific principles. There is no medical consensus that it can deliver results."

McCormick added that the rule will cost the trucking industry an estimated $6.5 billion a year, without guaranteed results.

The new standard most likely will affect LTL drivers who load and unload freight, employees who sort and deliver packages, and longhaul company drivers who perform manual lifting. Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries caused by extensive road vibrations or prolonged sitting also would be covered by the regulations.

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