NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Proposed OSHA Rules Ignite Fierce Regulatory Battle

September 18, 2000

Late last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed new workplace rules that have business owners and managers up in arms. They are, without doubt, the most far-reaching regulations the agency has ever proposed. The rules create an entirely new class of injuries dubbed "work-related musculoskeletal disorders" -- which critics say could turn a pulled muscle into an industrial emergency.

  • While OSHA estimates that compliance with the rules will cost $5 billion a year, industry experts say that figure doesn't even come close to what the costs will eventually be.
  • United Parcel Service, Inc., for example, says compliance could cost it more than the company's annual net income.
  • Warehouse operators say they may have to remove all items from bottom shelves -- lest workers wrench their backs bending over.
  • The rules apply to six million employers with 93 million workers.

The agency is racing to push forth a final version of the rules before President Clinton leaves office, even though agency officials admit that key provisions are flawed and need significant changes before being finalized. The rules will certainly be challenged in the courts. So no one knows exactly how onerous will be their effect.

For the meantime, however, employers face a host of uncertainties.

Source: Phil Kuntz, "Proposed OSHA Rules for Workplace Injuries Make Companies Ache," Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2000.


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