WASHINGTON, DC - November 13, 2000 - The decision to finalize an ergonomics rule will “undermine voluntary programs that are reducing worker injuries at a faster rate than the rule would. The regulation will divert virtually all of the resources available to deal with the avalanche of new procedures and paperwork instead of improving safety in the workplace,” said Food Marketing Institute (FMI) President and CEO Tim Hammonds.

Hammonds issued the statement today as the National Coalition on Ergonomics (NCE) announced plans to file suit to enjoin the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from implementing the rule. FMI is a leading member of the coalition and will be a party to the lawsuit.

“The rule will cost the industry untold billions of dollars to implement,” Hammonds said, “by requiring ergonomics programs for virtually all jobs. In the grocery industry alone, it would cover more than 3.5 million workers.”

Through voluntary efforts, the grocery industry has reduced all worker injuries by 28 percent over the past 10 years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA projects that its ergonomics rule would reduce one class of injuries, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), by 26 percent over the next 10 years.

Hammonds emphasized that FMI and the coalition continue to support efforts in Congress to deny funding for the rule in fiscal year 2001. The no-funding provision is part of the appropriations bill for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments, which is still pending.

The rule will require employers to develop an ergonomics program for any job that could cause an MSD, whose symptoms include numbness, burning, pain, tingling, cramping and stiffness — “a range so vague and broad,” Hammonds said, “that it would cover just about any ailment.

“The proposal is so open-ended that any job in which an employee experiences such symptoms will need to be ‘fixed.’ And the symptoms need only be ‘job-related’; relief could be required even if household or recreational activities were the primary cause.”

The cost for all industries to implement the rule range from OSHA’s figure of $4.2 billion to business and independent estimates of more than $100 billion. Much of the cost is to cover extensive record-keeping on every symptom reported and the therapy and training given to provide relief and prevent injuries.

“Now that OSHA is finalizing the ergonomics rule,” Hammonds said, “we are compelled to file suit to prevent the agency from moving forward. We must stop this standard in every way possible —whether it takes congressional or legal action. Too much is at stake. It would undermine successful worker safety efforts, increase food prices and cause major and costly disruptions in the grocery industry.”