At a Washington hearing last week, William F. Hofmann, president elect of the Independent Insurance Agents of America, said the association has “grave concerns” with proposed workplace ergonomics rules and is calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to halt consideration until scientific data can be collected. Hofmann said during one of OSHA’s series of hearings held in Washington, D.C. that independent agents are opposed to the proposed rules, which OSHA plans to implement before year’s end, because of displacement of the state-based workers’ comp system, the high cost of compliance for business and the need for the standards to be rooted in scientific data. The rules would undermine or displace workers’ comp systems, which Hofmann said have evolved over the years into an effective program providing all reasonable and necessary medical treatment for work-related diseases and injuries. “We are greatly troubled that OSHA’s proposed medical care and wage replacement requirements directly overlap existing state-based systems,” Hofmann testified. “OSHA’s proposed ergonomics standard would essentially create a federal workers’ compensation system, which would directly conflict with the existing state-regulated injury compensation program. “This de facto abrogation of states’ rights will clearly have a serious impact upon employers and their insurance providers because they would be subject to new and uncertain liability for medical costs and wage replacement that would be required under the proposed standard.” Hofmann also addressed the disparate costs estimates for businesses to comply with the proposed regulations, suggesting that the discrepancies alone should be reason enough to delay implementation until a definitive cost projection can be made. “Although OSHA has estimated that the employer costs of these proposed regulations will be approximately $4.2 billion, the Employment Policy Foundation believes the price of worker education, reconfiguration of workspaces and workers’ compensation will cost some $80 billion annually,” he said.
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