Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Thinking About Ergonomics? We Will Bury Sue You!

In a letter that gives new meaning to the words hyperbole and hissy-fit, the Building Industry Association of Washington has sent a letter to Paul Trause, Director of the Department of Labor & Industry, objecting to the Department's development of a new Regional Directive that would explain to directors how to handle ergonomics issues.

You may remember that the Washington State ergonomics standard was repealed last year after a scurrilous million dollar campaign based on lies that would have made Joe McCarthy blush. (See here and here.) I can't accurately describe the absurdity of this letter, so it's probably best if I just reprint it in whole:

July 22, 2004

Director Paul Trause
Department of Labor & Industries
PO Box 44001
Olympia, WA 98504-4001

It has come to my attention that L&I is developing an ergonomic WISHA Regional Directive that would serve as a substitute fo the ergonomics standards repealed by the voters in Initiative 841. This is a blatant violation of the law and subversion of the will of the voters. By approving Initiative 841 in 2003, the voters expressly repealed your ergonomics regulations and prohibited future rule making on ergonomics. Any attempt to enforce the repealed ergonomics standard by means of a newly adopted ergonomics policy is illegal.
We will sue you.

Moreover, BIAW will file another initiave if necessary to repeal future ergonomic policies adopted by L&I. Initiative 841 was very successful in uniting the press (sic), the public,(sic-er) the workers (sic-est) and the business community against the pseudo-science and overregulation of the L&I bureaucrats. L&I spent million of tax dollars attempting to justify bad science and ignored public comments against the ergonomic rule. Washington state is now a better place to live and work because the ergonomics rule was repealed. Washington State citizens will not tolerate an out of control agency that disregards the will of the voters and its laws.


Tom McCabe
Executive Vice President

P.S. Why didn't you fire the staff that promulged the ergonomics rule? I warned you they would create mischief which is exactly what they're doing with the WRD. [Oh hell, why don't you just shoot them and get it over with.] (Emphasis and comments added)

Initiative 841 supporters

Sounds like maybe it's time to raise another million dollars for a referendum that makes it a crime for any state official to even think about ergonomics. The only explanation I can come up with is that McCabe is off his meds and must be getting bored with no ergo bogey-man to fight, having killed the goose that laid his golden egg, and is trying to recreate a reason to exist.

Now I admit that I haven't seen a draft of the new directive. And while it's entirely possible (knowing the subversive scoundrels that drafted the ergonomics standard) that it defies the law, reinstates the standard, declares a workers' state and seizes the means of production, I doubt that it's likely to be much more than a revision and clarification of the original post-referendum directive issued last December which was written to provide "guidance to WISHA enforcement and consultation staff whenever they must address issues involving WMSD hazards and potential ergonomics solutions."

If ergonomic issues come to the attention of WISHA inspectors,

they must not initiate (or expand) inspection activity. The allegations or other information must be referred to Senior Program Manager of WISHA Policy & Technical Services, who will provide appropriate direction based on the specifics of the situation.
If an employer asks for guidance, the repealed standard can be

used as a guide to identifying potential hazards and areas of concern, but consultants must make it clear that the rule has been repealed and that none of its specific provisions are required.
Yup, sounds pretty subversive to me. Time to go out and raise more money.

Oh and Tom, if the men in the little white suits show up at your door, they're there to help you.