Despite opposition by the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions narrowly passed a proposal (S. 2184) to reissue a new ergonomics standard within two years.
The Committee’s action ignored a comprehensive and flexible plan created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that best fit the needs of workers, businesses and insurers, according to insurers.
“NAII believes that the OSHA’s comprehensive plan is moving in the right direction and at the right speed to protect American workers,” Julie Gackenbach, NAII director, government relations, said. “The lesson to be learned from the ergonomics standard rescinded by Congress in 2001 is that stakeholders are not near a consensus or a compromise on this issue. The 11-10 vote to pass the bill further indicates the division on this issue. Congress pushing for another standard is a step backwards and will be history repeating itself. We already know that a “one-size-fits-all approach to ergonomics will fail.”
In a letter sent to Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the last week, the NAII reiterated “that ergonomic-related injuries are varied. Preventing or mitigating these injuries involves assessment of all contributing factors. For all we know to be true about ergonomics, there is an equal amount of what we don’t know to be true. Years of research have failed to yield conclusive evidence in many areas surrounding the ergonomics issue, the letter explained.
“OSHA announced its plan in April to assemble a National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics and has started development of two sets of guidelines, one for the nursing home industry and one for the retail grocery stores and poultry processors. OSHA clearly has a workable plan in place and is following through with it. Their plan includes industry-specific guidelines, enforcement, compliance assistance, Hispanic outreach and research,” Gackenbach’s letter read. “It appears to us that OSHA is serious, committed and able to protect American workers from ergonomic-related injuries, if only given the full support of Congress.”