Friday, September 12, 2008

Business groups strategize for return of ergonomics regulation

Business groups are already preparing for a Labor Department run by the Obama administration.

Industry officials will gather Friday morning at the Chamber of Commerce to discuss their strategy of how to deal with the possible re-emergence of one of the most controversial regulations ever issued by the U.S. government.

Aided by a GOP-controlled Congress and President Bush, business groups successfully lobbied lawmakers in 2001 to kill a Labor Department regulation aimed at reducing ergonomics-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The ergonomics regulation, which was proposed in the waning days of the Clinton administration, was a top priority of union groups. It was the only regulation that Congress has overturned through the Congressional Review Act.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has promised to issue a new ergonomics regulation as president, and industry officials say they want to be ready for it.

In its “Save the Date” announcement of Friday’s meeting, the Chamber of Commerce stated that “the threat of a new ergonomics regulation has been kept in check by the Republican congressional majorities and the Bush administration. But with the recent shift in power on Capitol Hill, and regardless of who wins the White House, issuing a new ergonomics regulation will once again become a hot issue.”

Some industry officials say that Congress would have to expressly authorize a new regulation, but that is disputed by proponents of a new ergonomics rule. Regardless, Democrats are expected to control both the House and Senate next year and would likely have the votes to clear the way for an ergonomics regulation.

For much of the mid- to late 1990s, the GOP-controlled Congress handcuffed the Clinton administration-led Labor Department from issuing a standard through appropriations riders. Toward the end of his second term, President Clinton fought off that restriction, and the new rule was issued in mid-November of 2000."    (Continued via TheHill.com, Meghan McNamara)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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