The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) announced its support for the goal of a bipartisan ergonomics bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Breaux, D-La., aimed at finalizing a new standard within two years.
Although AIHA did not express support for the specific legislation, the letter sent to Breaux by AIHA President Steven Levine, commends his effort to keep the ergonomics issue at the forefront of the public policy agenda.
"Whether by congressional mandate or through regulatory fiat, it is imperative that a new rulemaking process begin as soon as possible that solicits the input and viewpoints of all stakeholders, not solely those of industry and labor," Levine said in his letter.
AIHA sent a similar letter to Rep. Chris John, D-La., who introduced a counterpart bill in the House to Breaux''s proposal.
Unlike the OSHA standard, Breaux''s rule says that an ergonomics regulation should not expand existing state workers'' compensation laws, nor should it apply to injuries occurring outside of the workplace.
Breaux''s bill also requires that OSHA tell businesses what steps the need to take to address ergonomics hazards before the rules take effect.
AIHA remained relatively silent during the battle to repeal OSHA''s ergonomics standard in Congress.
Just before the congressional repeal, Hank Lick, AIHA president-elect, sent a memorandum to AIHA local sections and members on behalf of the AIHA executive committee explaining why the association decided to stay out of the debate.
"The board discussed in what way AIHA may influence Congress in their effort if the Congressional Review Act was used," wrote Lick on March 8. "It was the view of the board that there was little AIHA could do against the forces lined up against OSHA''s ergonomics standard and there was a strong probability that we could lose some of our access on Capitol Hill if we took the wrong action."
Lick also noted that not all board members supported OSHA''s ergonomics standard either in its draft or final form.
However, he went on to explain in his memo that "some AIHA members believe the board should have sent a letter to Congress and by not doing so the board does not support ergonomics. That is not the case. AIHA stands by its support of an ergonomics standard."
by Virginia Sutcliffe