August 3, 1999
The Administration strongly opposes enactment of H.R. 987, a bill that would unnecessarily delay the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) issuance of a protective standard on ergonomics until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has completed a second study of the scientific literature regarding musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and ergonomics. If H.R. 987 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.
During the negotiations on the Fiscal Year 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Congress and the Administration agreed that the Department of Labor would proceed with its ergonomics rule while the NAS conducted its study. The Administration agreed to the inclusion of funding for this study based on a clear understanding with then- Appropriations Committee Chairman Livingston and other negotiators that the study would not be used as a reason to delay OSHA's proposed ergonomics standard. H.R. 987 would reverse this agreement by forcing OSHA to wait up to two years before issuing a standard, in expectation that the conclusions of the NAS study will differ from those reached by NAS just last year and by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which completed an exhaustive survey in 1997. Both of these studies concluded that MSDs are caused by physical forces in the workplace and that ergonomic solutions can reduce those forces and the incidence of MSDs.
Major public health organizations, medical societies, and scientific groups -- including the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons -- oppose H.R. 987 and have urged OSHA to move ahead with a protective standard. Each year, more than 600,000 American workers suffer work-related MSDs and their employers pay $15-20 billion a year in workers' compensation alone. After more than ten years of experience with ergonomic programs in the red meat industry, exhaustive scientific study, and millions of unnecessary injuries, it is clearly time to move ahead.
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