Labor Commissioner Deletes N.C.'s Version of Ergo Rules

March 14, 2001
North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherrie Berry voided the\r\nstate's version of the ergonomics rules the same day Congress voted\r\nto repeal OSHA's federal ergonomics standard.

North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherrie Berry deleted the state''s version of the ergonomics rules the same day Congress voted to repeal OSHA''s federal ergonomics standard.

Berry argued that her predecessor, Harry Payne, had adopted the federal ergonomics rules in error.

She issued what is known as a declaratory ruling last Tuesday, voiding the state regulations.

North Carolina adopted federal ergonomics rules verbatim on Nov. 14 while Payne was still in office.

Under the rules, employers would have had to respond immediately to workplace injuries, provide training, change work practices and offer free medical care to workers with musculoskeletal disorders.

State plan states are free to adopt their own ergonomics rules to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain and other repetitive stress injuries, but Berry said she thinks businesses will address such problems voluntarily.

"The vast majority of businesses realize the issues that affect their bottom line," she said. "Injured employees have an effect on their bottom line, and I believe they will be looking at any and every way they can to prevent workers to be injured."

She also said the new standards would have "unfairly targeted the state''s manufacturing industry, which has had to trim thousands of jobs in the past few years."

Tom O''Connor, executive director of the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, a Durham, N.C., worker advocacy group, said voluntary ergonomics programs don''t cut it.

"Unfortunately, half of employers are doing it and the others are not," said O''Connor. "I just think that it''s really bad policy to have a nonpartisan agency spend years and years to develop regulations ... and then have Congress overturn it in a couple of days."

But Phil Kirk, president of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, a group that opposed the new rules, said repetitive motion injuries are decreasing in North Carolina -- proof, he said, that companies are addressing such problems.

"Especially now that we''ve got an economic downturn, this is certainly not the time to put additional regulations on businesses," said Kirk.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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