By a 56-44 vote, all 50 Republicans along with six Democrats voted Tuesday to overturn regulations designed to protect workers — including those in trucking — from repetitive motion injuries.
Supporters of removing the rules, including the American Trucking Associations, as well as President Bush, claimed the regulations would be expensive to implement, costing businesses billions of dollars annually, far more than the $4.5 billion dollar cost estimated by the Occupational Safety Health Administration.
OSHA claimed the rules would affect more than 10 million workers and prevent 4.6 million musculoskeletal disorders in the first 10 years they were to be in effect.
But detractors of the regulations disagreed, saying the Clinton administration bypassed an independent review of the plan by the National Academy of Sciences.
The new regulations were issued just before President Clinton left office, but businesses were given until October 2001 to comply.
American Trucking Associations President Walter McCormick released a letter following the Senate vote praising their decision.
"For the trucking industry alone, this rule is estimated to cost $6.5 billion a year. Yet in the trucking industry, as is true throughout the U.S. business community, repetitive stress injuries have been in decline for nearly a decade. In fact, in our industry, of all the injuries and illnesses that keep employees off the job, less than 1% are repetitive stress injuries. In the absence of government regulation, the business of trucking has made significant progress on its own. This industry should not be penalized for its good-faith efforts by an unscientific, unfair and unfeasible regulation."
Democrats, who were allied with labor groups in supporting the new rules, attacked the vote. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, said the move to overturn the workplace rules was a political payback for GOP campaign contributors opposed the new regulations.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao issued a letter yesterday hinting the Occupational Safety Health Administration may pursue a new rulemaking that would address concerns about the Clinton administration rules.
Senators and House members are using a little known and never before used law that gives them the power to overturn regulations issued by federal agencies with just a simple majority vote and a presidential signature.
The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass.