Barring OSHA from moving forward with its proposed ergonomics standard "would leave employers, workers and others without the necessary data and guidance to assist them in protecting workplace health and safety," according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).
In a letter to the House and Senate leadership this week, AIHA President Steven Levine noted that the recently marked up and favorably reported FY 2001 Labor-HHS-Education appropriation bill includes an amendment forcing OSHA to suspend the process of investigating and generating standardized guidelines for ergonomics.
"This amendment is in direct opposition to Congress''s repeated statements that no new riders about ergonomics would be accepted," said Levine. "The bill as released by the House Appropriations Committee presents the biggest obstacle yet to creating an ergonomics standard."
The House has already passed legislation requiring the Secretary of Labor to wait for completion of a National Academy of Sciences study before presenting the standard, which would provide voluntary guidelines for protecting worker health and safety.
Levine said halting OSHA''s progress now would truncate a process that is already far along.
OSHA recently concluded public hearings on its proposed standard and now must review comments, propose any changes and issue a final standard.
AIHA, a longtime supporter of the creation of such a standard, was among the many hundreds of witnesses at the public hearings.
Despite support for the ergonomics standard, however, Levine said that AIHA has made numerous recommendations to change the proposal as it currently stands.
"If the FY 2001 bill''s amendment cuts short the investigation and reporting phases of the standard''s creation, the guidelines would be difficult to implement in their present form," said Levine. "The only way to determine whether the data and science on the issue of ergonomics merit an OSHA standard is to allow the process to continue."
In conclusion of his letter, Levine said that "workplace ergonomic improvement and the elimination of cumulative trauma disorders are of great importance to AIHA and the workers we protect from illness and injury."
He requested that the House and Senate leadership make protecting the health and safety of the nation''s workers a priority as the FY 2001 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill moves through the legislative process.
by Virginia Sutcliffe