KCMA Applauds Rescinding of Ergonomics Rule
Reston, VA The action by Congress to rescind a government regulation affecting the handling of workplace-related injuries is being applauded by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, which termed the controversial ergonomics standard a "monstrosity."
The KCMA said that the resolution approved by Congress last month to rescind the recently implemented workplace code "was one of the best actions Congress has taken in the past several years."
The new OSHA regulation, implemented at the tail end of the Clinton Administration, had established a wide range of procedures and penalties related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) incurred by employees. The regulation had been strongly supported by labor unions, but vigorously opposed by many companies and business organizations, including the KCMA.
"The cost and complexity of this 600-page monstrosity would have choked many small businesses in our industry," said KCMA executive v.p. Dick Titus. "The rate of reported MSDs has been steadily declining thanks to the voluntary efforts of employers. This regulation would have reversed this positive trend and imposed mandatory additional costs and/or fines on employers," he added.
According to KCMA president Ralph Lackner and other critics of the OSHA code, if the guideline had been left to stand, employers could have been held responsible for MSD injuries "regardless of where or how they occurred." In addition, critics charged, slackard employees would have benefitted unduly from the regulation's required 90% pay for 90 days, just for claiming an injury.
The regulation, moreover, was "vague and open to interpretation," and would have proven costly and especially difficult for many small businesses to comply with, said Lackner, noting that a survey by the Reston, VA-based KCMA found that the costs to members to implement the OSHA regulation could have ranged from $1,298 to $3,260 per employee.
"Science did not support the regulation and many provisions were vague and open to interpretation," Titus commented. "Cabinet making was singled out under the regulation, yet OSHA turned a deaf ear to concerns raised by KCMA in public hearings, at meetings and in formal comments," he added. "The abuse of process by OSHA and the overreaching nature of the regulation ultimately sealed its fate."
KCMA officials said while they were uncertain of the fate of
similar federal or state workplace standards in the future, "the
highly politicized nature of the debate virtually guarantees that
the issue will not go away."
The KCMA "has considered ergonomics a priority issue for the past 10 years," Titus said. "Employ- ers should continue their efforts to take cost-effective, proven steps where feasible to reduce the risk of MSD injuries. A continuation of the downward trend in reports of MSD injuries is the best bottom-line argument that can be made."