NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

OSHA Jumps The Gun On Ergonomics

February 23, 1999

Although repetitive-motion injuries have yet to be scientifically linked to the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has unveiled proposed rules that would force businesses to redesign workstations.

Critics say that OSHA bureaucrats are jumping the gun.

  • A National Academy of Sciences study -- which was ordered to determine if national ergonomics standard are even necessary -- isn't due to be published for another 15 to 18 months.
  • OSHA claims that businesses lose $15 billion to $20 billion a year to repetitive motion injuries -- but no definitive cost-benefit analysis has been done and, as noted, the jury is still out as to the causes of suggested injuries.
  • With two million businesses affected, in order for the cost of complying with the rules not to exceed the claimed benefits, each workplace could spend on average no more than $7,500 to $10,000 on redesigns -- estimates which critics say will prove ridiculously low.
  • Economists say employers have a built-in interest in maintaining the health of their workers and, to attain that end, will make whatever improvements they deem necessary in the workplace.

Those who do not respond risk losing valued workers to other employers.

Source: Editorial, "Rise of the Backrest Police?" Investor's Business Daily, February 23, 1999.


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