Dept. of Labor Schedules Ergonomics Hearings for July

June 13, 2001

The U.S. Department of Labor announced plans for three ergonomics hearings to be held in July. The Labor Department will hold three public forums — one on July 16 in the District of Columbia, a second on July 20 in Chicago, and a third on July 24 in California. The hearings will cover essential questions that have been the subject of previous dispute, including how to define an ergonomic injury and determine if it was work-related.

Legislation (S 598) is still pending in the Senate that would require the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to re-issue another ergonomic rule within two years, to go into effect within 90 days of promulgation. The bill specifies areas the rule should cover and specifically prohibits any interference with state workers compensation laws.

In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Secretary Chao said that the Department has not yet decided whether to issue a new rule or offer other guidelines and assistance. The terms of the Congressional Review Act prohibits OSHA from issuing another rule that is “substantially similar” to this one but leave the door open for one with a different approach.

The move to schedule hearings drew praise from the Alliance of American Insurers. “Secretary Chao is acting thoughtfully in taking a comprehensive look at the ergonomics issue,” stated Alliance Washington Counsel Kenneth Schloman. “This is a complicated subject that deserves thorough analysis. We looking forward to actively participating and contributing to the process.”

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