The National Coalition on Ergonomics, filed a lawsuit last week with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to overturn OSHA''s ergonomics regulation.
The coalition represents a wide swath of the U.S. economy, including the Food Distributors International (FDI), the American Trucking Association, the Food Marketing Institute and other trade associations and businesses.
The group criticized OSHA''s timing in releasing the regulation and called it misguided and costly.
"The willingness of a federal agency to issue such an economically damaging regulation in the wake of what may be the most disputed presidential election in U.S. history has taken the Clinton Administration to a new low," said FDI President John Block.
"OSHA has been completely unwilling to listen beyond a few pro forma hearings to the legitimate concerns of businesses as it crafted this regulation," continued Block. "Even worse, OSHA has grossly underestimated the cost of its mischief to the U.S. economy."
Block said that President Clinton has pushed OSHA to "doggedly pursue the implementation of a sweeping set of rules before the end of his administration," despite a 1998 agreement between Congress and the White House to fund an $850,000 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study to determine if there is even clear scientific evidence to support the need for an ergonomics rule.
"OSHA insists the science is proven, but that just isn''t true," said Kevin Burke, FDI vice president for government relations. "We simply don''t know enough about the causes of ergonomics injuries and the best methods to prevent them."
Burke questioned OSHA''s cost of the ergonomics regulation -- $4.6 billion to $4.8 billion, -- saying the agency has consistently low-balled its estimates in statements to Congress.
"FDI ran the numbers and learned just how ridiculous the OSHA estimates were," said Burke.
The study FDI commissioned in 1999 found that the rule''s cost to food distributors alone could reach $26 billion in the first year of implementation and $6 billion annually after that.
FDI''s president went on to criticize the scope of the newly-released rule.
"And to add fat to the fire, OSHA failed to include the U.S. Postal Service, rail workers and others -- representing millions of workers -- in the consideration of its rule," said Block. "Clearly OSHA is more interested in satisfying a political imperative rather than in designing a useful and workable rule."
Block concluded, "We''ll see OSHA in court."
by Virginia Sutcliffe