NAIC Considers Action on OSHA Ergonomics Program

January 15, 2001

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Workers’ Compensation Task Force met in an executive session conference call Friday to consider what action, if any, to take regarding the proposed Occupational Safety & Health Administration Ergonomics Program Standard.

The new standard, which was finalized by OSHA in November, is set to become effective January 16, 2001, and has an implementation date of October 15, 2001. In a statement made following the meeting, the task force recommended that the NAIC not join any litigation against the new standard at this time but to continue to closely monitor the issues regarding the standard and pursue further deliberations if necessary.

In making its deliberations the task force reviewed strong arguments on both sides of the issue, including comments from insurance industry representatives and organized labor groups. The industry groups stated that the proposed OSHA standard represents a substantial federal intrusion into a long-established state system, and its implementation would result in different causation requirements, benefit levels, medical rules, and administrative systems. Insurance industry representatives believe that if implemented, the new standard will create substantial uncertainty and greater costs for state agencies as well as for employers and insurers.

Although the insurance industry pointed out this is an attempt by a federal agency to supersede states’ rights, the task force believes the real issue is the creation of another federally mandated benefit. If it is ultimately implemented, the task force asserts the insurance industry will need to find an efficient means to provide this protection to their policyholders, as they have done in the past in response to other policyholder needs.

Comments received from the AFL-CIO generally supported the statistics offered by OSHA relating to musculoskeletal disorders, related injuries and implied cost savings. They urged the NAIC not to oppose the new program that is intended to provide safer and healthier workplaces while reducing the pain, suffering and cost paid by workers who are afflicted with these debilitating repetitive motion injuries.

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