NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Agency Pays Witnesses To Support Its Position

August 9, 2000

Should the government use taxpayers' money to pay witnesses to testify in favor of regulations it seeks to advance? And should federal agencies be forced to make public the data they use in promulgating their rules?

These and other questions have arisen as a nasty fight has erupted over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's intention to regulate workplace ergonomics in order to reduce injuries, such as repetitive stress syndrome among data entry operators.

  • OSHA's ergonomics proposal is among the most far-reaching rules the agency has even advanced -- and it is opposed by millions of companies that would have to comply with it, as well as most Republicans on Capitol Hill.
  • OSHA says the rule will cost businesses $5 billion annually -- but some business groups put the figure at $18 billion.
  • The agency has been criticized for hiring 28 witnesses to support its efforts, without disclosing that they were paid at least $1.8 million to testify.
  • OSHA contends businesses are trying to gain access to agency documents so they can see how the agency crafted its rule -- the better to challenge it in court once it is finalized.

The House and Senate have both included provisions in the Labor Department appropriation bill to stop work on the rule, which has prompted a veto threat from the White House. The agency is scheduled to issue its rule at the end of this year.

Source: Cindy Skrzycki, "Repetitive Stress Surrounds Ergonomics Rule," Washington Post, August 8, 2000.


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