Senators, Steel Workers Question New Ergonomic Standard

Washington, D.C. -- On April 5, U.S. Department of Labor secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the Bush administration's voluntary guidelines to reduce ergonomic injuries in the workplace. While many saw it as a positive decision, several feel that a more stringent, mandatory standard should be issued.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., testified at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing Thursday that the administration's plan to combat work-related injuries contains clear, well-grounded guidelines, employer outreach and compliance assistance.

But others, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who led the hearing Thursday, question Chao's guidelines. And Sen. John Breaux, D-La., recently introduced a bill that would require a mandatory standard. Additionally, United Steelworkers of America (USWA) President Leo Gerard called on the administration to abandon its voluntary approach, citing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as the leading cause of injuries in the workplace.