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OSHA Ergonomic Program Standard Rejected

"Today I have signed into law S.J. Res. 6, a measure that repeals an unduly burdensome and overly broad regulation dealing with ergonomics…

There needs to be a balance between and an understanding of the costs and benefits associated with Federal regulations. In this instance, though, in exchange for uncertain benefits, the ergonomics rule would have cost both large and small employers billions of dollars and presented employers with overwhelming compliance challenges. Also, the rule would have applied a bureaucratic one-size-fits-all solution to a broad range of employers and workers -- not good government at work.

The safety and health of our Nation's workforce is a priority for my administration. Together we will pursue a comprehensive approach to ergonomics that addresses the concerns surrounding the ergonomics rule repealed today. We will work with the Congress, the business community, and our Nation's workers to address this important issue."

With these words, on March 20, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a joint resolution of Congress nullifying the Ergonomics Program Standard issued by OSHA on November 14, 2000. Congress acted pursuant to the previously-unused Congressional Review Act of 1996, which gives Congress the authority to review and reject, by simple majority of both houses, any "major rule" that meets specified indicia of significant fiscal impact. 5 USCA § 801 et seq.

As a result of this Congressional action, the standard is no longer in effect and employers are not bound by its requirements. Since the Congressional Review Act prohibits the reissuance of an ergonomics rule in "substantially the same form," absent specific authorization by subsequently enacted legislation, it is not altogether clear what the future holds with respect to a national ergonomics standard. In a statement issued on March 14, 2001, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao pledged to "revisit the concerns" of all sides on this issue "in addressing the very complex issue of ergonomic injuries through a comprehensive approach which could be accomplished by a new rule, guidelines or legislative solution."

In the absence of a national ergonomic standard, each state retains jurisdiction to address the issue directly. Several states have issued their own ergonomic standard; Maryland has yet to initiate any such action.


February 28, 2001




Kellner, Robert C.