Food Distributors Want Ergo Compliance Requirements Spelled Out

Food distributors across America are the latest group to blast OSHA for its workplace ergonomics regulation saying it would impose huge costs on businesses without any assurance of benefit to workers.

In an on-going mission to urge OSHA to withdraw its ergonomics proposal, Martin J. Whelan of Ettline Foods Corp. joined Kevin Burke, Food Distributors International (FDI) vice president for government affairs, to testify at the OSHA hearings last week.

Speaking on behalf of FDI members, Whelan emphasized his concern with OSHA's inability to clearly define key terms and "spell out compliance requirements."

"Because OSHA cannot provide definitive answers to crucial questions regarding the origins of MSDs, they have chosen to ignore their responsibility to provide proper guidance and issue a proposal which leaves all crucial compliance decisions to employers," said Whelan.

Whelan added that "the proposal's estimate of the time and resources that will be devoted to compliance are unrealistically low."

Burke also emphasized FDI's concern with the process OSHA is undertaking to impose the regulation, as well as many fundamental issues not addressed in the proposed rule.

"OSHA estimates compliance costs of just more than $4 billion for all effected industries. The agency claims these costs will not have significant or adverse impact on the profitability of regulated business. We disagree, and the magnitude of the error is somewhat breathtaking," said Burke.

FDI was the first trade organization to conduct a detailed analysis by outside experts of the economic impact of the proposed regulation.

FDI's analysis, conducted by Prime Consulting Inc., Chicago, showed that wholesaler and foodservice distributor member companies could be hit with cost of up to $22 billion in the first year.

Annual costs could reach $6 billion for the 242 member companies and 820 distribution centers involved, according to FDI.

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