The business community blasted the new OSHA rule after it was announced that about 1.6 million employers would need to implement a basic ergonomics program.
"OSHA continues to ignore the evidence as it recklessly pursues an ergonomics standard," said Ed Gilroy, co-chair of the National Coalition on Ergonomics. "It's proposed rule would cost employers billions of dollars while failing to assure the prevention of even one injury."
Business groups are questioning the validity of medical and scientific evidence as to what causes or remedies repeated trauma injuries. "We don't know the answers to fundamental questions, such as how many repetitions would be too many, how heavy a lift is too heavy or what is an awkward position?," said Gilroy. "We need comprehensive, unbiased research, not an ergonomics regulation."
Some business groups are threatening court action to block the proposed rule. "If OSHA persists in pushing forward this ill-considered regulation, then we will meet them in court," said Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president for labor policy.
According to OSHA's ergonomic proposal, most employers in general industry will incur minimal costs. OSHA said employers who need to correct problems will spend an average of $150 per year per work station fixed. The total cost to employers would equal $4.2 billion each year.
Kevin Burke, vice president, government relations, of Food Distributors International (FDI) said the proposed ergonomics regulation by OSHA and its estimate that it would cost American business some $4 billion per year is "absolutely ludicrous."
Burke said a new study, just completed for FDI, which represents 242 grocery wholesale and foodservice distribution companies, estimates that the proposal could cost its members $26 billion in the first year and $6 billion annually thereafter.
Burke said that cost is based on the assumption that only 10 percent of our member companies would be forced to completely retool or rebuild their warehouse facilities in order to comply with OSHA's requirements.
"In our industry, many companies will not be able to comply with OSHA's requirements. They will be forced to accept lower production and efficiency at best. In many cases, they will be required to reconfigure their warehouse facilities and jobs all because OSHA says so, not because their is any scientific basis for its decision," said Burke.