Information Justifying Ergonomics Rule Missing

The NCE charges that essential information justifying OSHA's ergonomics rule is missing from the agency's docket.

In a statement released on Thursday, the National Coalition on Ergonomics (NCE) charged that essential information designed to justify OSHA's ergonomics rule, remains missing from the agency's docket.

NCE said this lack of information is preventing interested parties from having adequate opportunity to comment on OSHA's proposal.

"The docket's index continues to grow since the proposal was published Nov. 23," said David Sarvadi, counsel to NCE. "Worse, key exhibits and attachments cited by OSHA in the Federal Register notice are not available at the docket office. The proposal was published before OSHA was ready to start the public comment period. Clearly there is a political payoff to someone in OSHA's rush to judgment."

The due date for public comment on the proposed standard is Feb. 1, 2000.

The NCE believes this date is unacceptable because OSHA has limited the time the for review and comment on the draft and the supporting information to 70 days, including the Christmas and New Year's holiday period.

Sarvadi said with nearly half that time expired, it is impossible for groups to respond thoroughly and accurately to the OSHA proposed standard.

"With an index of more than 750 pages, and with many exhibits in the docket having multiple documents of varying length, even the size of the task before us cannot be estimated," said Sarvadi.

The NCE sent a letter last week to OSHA asking it to fill-in the incomplete docket and grant interested parties more time to review it and submit comments.

The group is asking that OSHA expand the current public comment period to 180 days.

Observers believe the regulation's docket could easily be the largest ever. So far, OSHA's proposal describing the ergonomics standard and its reasons for adopting it total more than 1,000 pages.

"The failure to make the full record available shows OSHA is intent on railroading this through, rather than on having a fair and open debate," said Sarvadi. "OSHA is not helping its cause by pressing forward while not providing the evidence it claims justifies a standard, as is required by fundamental notions of due process and fairness."

The NCE has repeatedly called on opponents and supporters of the rule to push for new and substantial research that would advance the understanding of ergonomics.

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