The U.S. Senate this week is expected to attempt to overturn the controversial ergonomics regulations,
issued late last year and opposed by much of the trucking industry.
According to published reports, four Republican senators late Thursday introduced a "resolution of disapproval" under the Congressional Review Act, a little-known law passed in 1996. If the resolution is approved by a simple majority in each house and is signed by President Bush, the sweeping and costly ergonomics rule would be rescinded. This would be the first time the Congressional Review Act has been used on a major rule. The vote could come as early as Tuesday, according to The Washington Post. The paper reports that leadership aides in both parties say the prospects for rejecting the rule are good, and that Bush reacted favorably in a meeting with House and Senate Republicans about plans to try to kill the ergonomics rule.
The rules, which apply to all industries but construction, maritime, agriculture and railroads, are intended to address musculoskeletal disorders, including repetitive-motion injuries. There are no specific jobs are listed in the rule, but MSDs are typically associated with stress and strain to the neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, back, knees, ankles and feet.
The American Trucking Associations called the standard "completely unworkable" because it is not based on sound science and it is too costly and not necessary. OSHA estimates the cost for all covered industries at $4.23 billion, but critics say it's probably 15 times greater. ATA strongly disputes OSHA's $200 million estimate for trucking. The true figure is probably closer to a $6.5 billion estimate for a similar proposal drafted in 1995, they say. Other business groups have had similar objections.
Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) said in a statement that "Congress has no choice but to head off the devastating side effects of the Clinton ergo rule by dismantling it. This menacing regulation's days are numbered."
Unions, on the other hand, support the rules. "The fight against MSD's is a struggle that labor and business should be fighting together," said James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union. "Our workers must not suffer a day longer."