Businesses Sue Washington State Over New Ergonomics Rules

Olympia, Wash. -- A coalition of business groups and other employers sued the state of Washington over new state ergonomic rules designed to prevent workplace injuries.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court by Washington Employers Concerned about Regulating Ergonomics, claims that the rules written by the state's Department of Labor and Industries place an unnecessary burden on employers.

State officials, however, contend that the regulations could prevent thousands of injuries every year. The department also has no plans to rescind or revise the regulations, director Gary Moore told the Associated Press.

The rules, to be phased in over six years beginning in July 2002, require employers to identify tasks that are likely to cause back strain, repetitive stress and other injuries to muscles and joints. Businesses also must take steps to lower the risks by buying new equipment, repositioning existing equipment and providing training on how to avoid injury.

Major employer groups say that the rules will cost them about $725 million per year.

Nationally, ergonomic regulations were designed during the Clinton administration and repealed in the spring of 2001. U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao is to decide by the end of this month whether to consider a new set of regulations or follow voluntary guidelines.