Bush Signs Ergonomics Repeal; Draws IIAA Praise

March 22, 2001

Independent agents are hailing the finality of freeing small businesses from costly federal ergonomics rules following President Bush’s signing of a measure to repeal them, says Independent Insurance Agents of America President William F. Hofmann III, CPCU, CLU, AAI, CIC, LIA.

President Bush signed Senate Joint Resolution 6, which repeals the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule on job-related repetitive motion stress injuries, during a private ceremony yesterday. Two weeks ago, Congress voted to overturn ergonomics regulations. On March 6, the Senate voted 56-44 to approve the resolution.

Six Democrats joined the chamber’s 50 Republicans on the successful vote. The next day, the House completed Congress’s repeal effort when it voted 223-206 to affirm the Senate’s action. Sixteen Democrats supported the resolution while 13 Republicans opposed it. Congressional action came courtesy of the never-before-used Congressional Review Act. Passed in 1996, the act allows Congress to overturn federal regulations it disagrees with. The effort brings an end to OSHA’s current foray into workplace ergonomics.

“From day one, IIAA fought OSHA’s efforts to promulgate ergonomics rules. From working with allies on Capitol Hill on legislative remedies, to testifying at OSHA public hearings, to filing a legal challenge, IIAA led the effort on behalf of agents to stop the rules,” says Hofmann, a partner in Provider Insurance Group, Inc., an independent agency with offices in Belmont, Brookline and Needham, Mass. and Woonsocket, R.I. “This is a huge testament to IIAA’s government affairs efforts on Capitol Hill, but the gratification is in knowing that thousands of independent agents and millions of their small business clients will not be burdened by these costly, overly broad ergonomics standards.”

IIAA and other small business organizations vigorously opposed the OSHA ergonomics rules because they would have been prohibitively expensive to implement, were vaguely written and overly broad and would have been punitive to entrepreneurs.

IIAA also actively opposed the rules because of their unfair intrusion into the state-based workers compensation system-a move that would have undercut the ability of agents to compete in this market.

“The genie has been put back in the bottle, which in the legislative arena is extremely difficult to do. Now that President Bush has signed the resolution into law it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off the back of independent agents and small business owners across the country,” says IIAA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert A. Rusbuldt. “No more will agents have to worry about the prohibitive cost of implementing ergonomics standards in their offices and no longer will agents be concerned about losing workers compensation business because of an ill-conceived federal regulation. Now, that’s all behind them, thanks to the efforts of the Republican leaders in Congress and President Bush.”

While cheering the resolution’s enactment, IIAA Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Maria L. Berthoud also noted that OSHA is launching a process to develop business-friendly ergonomics standards that address workplace repetitive stress injuries, yet do not threaten the viability of businesses.

In a statement issued following his action, President Bush pledged his Administration would pursue a “comprehensive approach to ergonomics that addresses the concerns surrounding the ergonomics rule repealed today.”

“IIAA will be closely monitoring further OSHA efforts to develop new ergonomics rules to ensure that they do not burden independent agents with undue regulations,” says IIAA Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Maria L. Berthoud. “This Administration is more mindful of the impact of federal regulations and IIAA will work with them to craft a new ergonomics remedy that balances protection of workers with the concerns of businesses.”

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