Bipartisan Ergonomics Bill Introduced in Senate

Sen. John Breaux, D-La., has offered a proposal to require OSHA to\r\nissue revised rules to protect workers from repetitive motion\r\ninjuries within two years.

President Bush signed a repeal of OSHA''s ergonomics standard last week, killing the rule that took the agency 10 years to develop, meanwhile talk of new ergonomics rules began to emerge in Congress.

Sen. John Breaux, D-La., has offered a proposal to require OSHA to issue revised rules to protect workers from repetitive motion injuries within two years.

Breaux, who voted with the majority on the 56-44 vote to kill OSHA''s ergonomics rule, said his proposal is meant to advise OSHA on how to meet lawmakers'' concerns.

"[OSHA''s] rule gave contradictory information about what industries were covered and gave insufficient information to employers about how they would comply with the new workplace requirements," said Breaux.

Unlike, the OSHA standard, Breaux says a new ergonomics rule shouldn''t expand existing state workers'' compensation laws, nor should it apply to injuries that occurred outside the workplace.

Breaux''s bill also requires that OSHA tell businesses what steps they need to take to address ergonomics hazards before the rules take effect.

"Every objection that I heard, I think has been taken care of in the amendment," said Breaux. "I do not for the life of me understand why this would not be something that should not be unanimously agreed to."

In addition to Louisiana Sens. Breaux and Mary Landrieu, the legislation cosponsors include Sens. Max Cleland, D-Ga., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Zell Miller, D-Ga., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has said that she would consider drafting a new set of ergonomics rules.

Under the Congressional Review Act, which Congress used to kill the ergonomics standard, OSHA is barred from issuing a "substantially" similar rule, although it could issue a different ergonomics standard.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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