At a press conference last week, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), released a survey that showed OSHA's proposed ergonomics rule would burden small and medium manufacturers with an aggregate cost of $6.7 billion in the first year alone.
That figure is substantially higher than the $4.2 billion the agency estimates it will cost all of the nation's employers to comply with the regulation.
"Based on the survey results, it is obvious that the proposed ergonomics standard would impose an 'all cost no benefit' on small and medium manufacturers," said Patrick J. Cleary, NAM's vice president for human resource policy.
In addition to the survey, the NAM also sent a letter to OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress, signed by 150 members with ergonomics programs in place, that said the proposed rule "would tie their hands and increase paperwork."
"One small company with 20 employees stated OSHA's rule would financially cripple their operation -- it would be out of business within three months," noted Cleary. "Our survey showed an average cost of $781 per employee. That's money that could help pay for employee training, health insurance and other benefits."
That figure represents the total cost of setting up and managing an ergonomics program in accordance with the OSHA standard -- from redesigning work stations to compensating workers while they recover from musculoskeletal disorders.
Also on hand for the release of the survey was Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
Ballenger recounted that the House last year passed a bill (H.R. 987) to slow the rulemaking until a congressionally funded study of the issue is completed in 2001.
However, the Senate never voted on a companion bill, and the Clinton administration vowed to veto any limitation even if a bill was passed.
Cleary thanked Ballenger for his leadership in Congress by saying, "American workers should applaud Rep. Ballenger for being faithful in monitoring and protecting them from OSHA."
"Our joint skepticism was recently iterated by NAM membership in the National Manufacturing Week Survey where NAM members picked OSHA as the most difficult federal agency to deal with on regulatory issues," said Cleary.
For a copy of the NAM survey or the letter on the ergonomics proposal, visit www.nam.org.