Washington State Delays Ergonomics Rules for Two Years

The Washington State Senate voted Monday for a two-year delay in\r\nimplementing new ergonomics rules for workplaces throughout the\r\nstate.

The Washington State Senate voted Monday for a two-year delay in implementing new ergonomics rules for workplaces throughout the state.

The decision to delay the state''s ergonomics rules comes just one week after the U.S. Senate and House voted to repeal federal OSHA''s ergonomics standard.

A solid group of minority Republican state senators teamed up with four Democrats to delay the rules despite opposition from ruling Democrats and Democratic Gov. Gary Locke.

Instead, the Senate voted for new studies on the regulations that the state Department of Labor and Industries adopted last May.

State plan states were required to adopt an ergonomics rule at least as effective as the federal OSHA rule when it was released in November.

The state''s rules were to be enforced starting in 2003. This bill would extend the enforcement deadline to 2005.

These rules differ from federal OSHA''s rules because they focus on preventing injuries rather than on what happens after a worker is injured.

The rules would require employers to change workplaces to protect employees from disorders such as back strain, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome that can develop from repetitive motions.

The program initially would focus on employers with the highest risk of injuries, including sawmills, nursing homes and building trades.

The measure now goes to the state House, where its fate is uncertain.

Republicans oppose the ergonomics rules, but most Democrats are following the lead of organized labor in supporting the labor department.

The department estimated it would cost Washington businesses $80.4 million a year to implement the rules, a cost that would be offset by $304.7 million in savings from time lost due to injuries.

The Association of Washington Business, however, says the rules would cost more than $700 million.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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