By a 23-18 margin, the Education and Workforce Committee passed a bill that would block OSHA until the National Academy of Sciences completes a study that is due in 2001.
It is the latest maneuver in a long-running battle over workplace regulations. OSHA's proposal would require employers, including trucking companies, to establish comprehensive programs to protect workers from injuries attributed to repetitive motion, lifting objects or other work-related activities.
OSHA says the rules are needed to reduce "musculoskeletal disorders" such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and strained back. Opponents say the agency's rules are unscientific and impossible to enforce.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Roy Blount, R-MO, is a move by Republicans and business interests -- including the American Trucking Assns. - who have kept the ergonomics rule bottled up for years but were outraged when OSHA went ahead with its proposal this past winter.
Lana Batts, president of the Truckload Carriers Assn., believes if these rules were enacted, they would eliminate a great deal of driver unloading.