Senators plan to introduce OSHA ergonomics bill

Posted By: Jerrod Weaver Government Affairs,

In response to mounting concerns over workplace injuries and illnesses related to repetitive motion and ergonomic hazards, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) are set to introduce a bill which would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an ergonomics rule with the goal of enhancing workplace safety across general industry.

This move isn't unfamiliar territory for OSHA. During the Clinton administration, a similar rule was introduced and finalized, only to be nullified by Congress in 2001. Opposition, primarily from the business community, cited compliance difficulties and cost concerns.

The upcoming bill, however, comes with several provisions that are cause for concern. One such provision would mandate the presence of medical professionals onsite to aid injured or ill workers and provide occupational medicine consultation services at a significant cost to the employer.

Additionally, the bill seeks to accelerate the abatement timeline for willful or repeat violations of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. It further proposes streamlining the abatement process for employers seeking a stay of abatement for such violations.

However, for companies in the foundry industry, the implications may be substantial. Mandating an ergonomics rule could impose significant burdens, both in terms of compliance costs and operational challenges. According to estimates, the cost of implementing a similar rule under the Clinton Administration was as high as $90 billion per year, with inflation likely doubling that figure for the current rule's implementation. Moreover, with the increasing prevalence of virtual work, employers may find themselves responsible for physical conditions outside the traditional workplace, where their control is limited.

While the introduction of this legislation appears to be imminent, its fate remains uncertain with the impending elections this fall. The NFFS Government Affairs Committee will continue to track the issue and will provide updates as they become available.