Insurance Industry Sues OSHA Over Ergonomics

Nov. 28, 2000
The American Insurance Association and major partners of the\r\nproperty and casualty insurance industry have mounted a legal\r\nchallenge to provisions of OSHA's ergonomics standard.

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The American Insurance Association (AIA) and major partners of the property and casualty insurance industry have mounted a legal challenge to provisions of OSHA''s ergonomics standard.

The group filed suit on Nov. 14 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.

The group of insurers is arguing that a provision that requires employers to pay injured workers up to 100 percent of their pre-injury salary would conflict with state workers'' compensation laws.

The group said in a statement, "this new compensation scheme, euphemistically-termed the work restriction protection'' (WRP) provision, would mandate payment for medical treatment and lost wages for qualifying musculoskeletal disorders."

"In creating OSHA, Congress deliberately and clearly put workers'' compensation off limits," said Bruce Wood, AIA assistant general counsel. "The Congress later reaffirmed this decision to limit OSHA''s role to prevention of workplace injuries in deciding against imposing federal workers'' compensation standards over 20 years ago. By attempting to create a federal compensation scheme, OSHA obviously disagrees with this policy of federal deference to state regulation of workers'' compensation. But that is a judgment that only Congress, not OSHA, can make."

As proposed, the WRP provision would become effective 60 days after promulgation.

AIA said this provision triggers a new definition that allows a symptom to be considered an injury thus eligible compensation.

Additionally, the group believes the link between work causing an injury is undermined.

"An injured worker could have symptoms caused by outside activity but be paid workers'' compensation. By mandating higher compensation levels for ergonomic symptoms, the rule would also create a ''most favored'' injury category," said AIA.

Wood commented that the rule itself is a "threat to the integrity of the workers'' compensation program, the nation''s oldest social insurance program."

"Property and casualty insurers are strong advocates of workplace safety," said Wood. "Insurers are actively engaged in educating employers on the prevention of ergonomic injuries. The ergonomics rule is far more than a health and safety standard. It is a compensation mandate in violation of the OSH Act."

AIA has coordinated the lawsuit filed by 12 insurance groups: ACE Ltd., American International Group Inc., CGU plc, Chubb Corp., CNA Financial Group Inc., Kemper Employers Insurance Co., Fireman''s Fund, Hartford Financial, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Royal & SunAlliance Group plc, PMA Capital Corp., and Travelers Property Casualty Group.

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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