Food Distributors: Death of Ergo Rule Saves Jobs

Recent Congressional action killing OSHA's ergonomics regulation will save food distributors billions of dollars, according to Food Distributors International (FDI).

Recent Congressional action killing OSHA''s ergonomics regulation will save food distributors billions of dollars and allow many distribution centers to remain in operation, according to Food Distributors International (FDI).

The ergonomics rule would have required employers to reconfigure their workplaces in order to reduce ergonomics-related injuries.

A study by FDI estimated it would cost food distributors alone as much as $22 billion to comply.

OSHA estimated the cost to all employers nationwide would be $4.5 billion.

"The action by Congress illustrates the absolute importance of involvement by organizations such as FDI and of individual business people themselves," said Kevin Burke, FDI vice president of governmental relations. "We were out front from the beginning on this issue. We helped organize a coalition of other organizations to defeat it. And our members backed us up with the every day, real-life workplace impact information that it took to help congressmen and senators see reason."

One FDI member estimated that it would costs $52 million to reconfigure his company to comply with the rule broken down by the following requirements:

  • Restricting the use of storage locations below the knee and above the shoulder and the handling of cases of more than 25 pound more than 25 times per day. This would require an additional 420 square feet of capacity, require 126 additional lift operators, 17.4 selectors as well as the purchase of six lift trucks and nine pallet jacks. Cost: $38,549,471.
  • Restricting placement in the back of pallets so employees don''t have to reach. A pallet-turning program would be needed, requiring 20 more lift truck operators and 10 more lift trucks. Cost. $1,085,187.

"FDI member companies already provide sensible and workable protections for their employees," said FDI President John Block. "We don''t need the government telling us how high to put our shelves or how many times a case can be lifted. Our members know what they must do to keep their employees healthy and on-the-job. And when there are injuries, they know they have to pay workers'' compensation."

Burke said the rules made "absolutely no sense" and would have provided "dubious benefits at an incredible cost." It was an example, he added, of "bureaucratic mistrust of business and the idea that the government is the sole source of wisdom."

FDI has been in the battle against the regulation since it was first initiated, and more than a year ago commissioned Prime Consulting, Bannockburn, Ill., to conduct a detailed study of the estimated cost that would be imposed.

That report said the cost could reach as much as $22 billion if companies had to reconfigure warehouses to comply.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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