Friday, May 09, 2003

Good News and Bad News on Ergonomics (Remember Ergonomics?)

First the bad news.

Connecticut says no.

The Connecticut appropriations committee failed to schedule a vote on an ergonomics bill, according to the Bureau of National affairs. "The bill--introduced Jan. 23--would have required all state employers to identify existing or potential ergonomics hazards and develop a written ergonomics policy to abate such hazards. The state's Labor and Public Employees Committee had passed the bill after holding hearings Feb. 7 and 11."

Maybe next year.

More bad news...

Minnesota says no.

A bill that would have created an ergonomics standard for the state also failed to be taken up by the Commerce, Jobs, and Economic Development Committee.

Such is life.

Now, some good news.

Washington says no.

That's good, because the Washington State House Commerce and Labor Committee was considering a bill passed by the Senate that would have turned the state's ergonomics standard into voluntary guidelines. The Committee never acted on the bill.

The BNA reports that "Under the bill (ESB 5161), Washington's ergonomics rule would have had no force or effect, but remain in place only as voluntary guidelines. The bill would not have allowed the state Labor and Industries Department to adopt or amend any similar rules dealing with musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace."

OK, people, this is where we are on ergonomics. Federal OSHA is a disaster: weak guidelines, minimal enforcement with low fines, and a do-nothing ergo advisory committee. There are only two states with ergonomics standards: California and Washington State. California's is so weak, it's almost unenforceable, although there are efforts under way by the labor movement to strengthen it.

Washington's is good, too good for the business community which has spent the last few years trying every which way to kill it -- the legislature every year, the far to no avail. But they'll keep trying because if they can kill the Washington standard, there's very little chance that any other state will ever pass a standard.

So get ready for next year. If we are ever going to protect this nations' workers and eventually get a national ergonomics standard again, we need to create the momentum on the state level. Keep bringing it up in the legislatures. Bring it up in the upcoming elections. Make it an issue. Go forth and legislate....and agitate.