OSHA this month has begun canceling ergonomics agreements made with several major United States companies, according to ergoweb.com. The agreements were old agreements that may have expired unnoticed, so the cancellations are likely to be viewed as an effort by the White House to underline its antipathy to ergonomics regulations.

Commenting on the cancellations, Peter Budnick, Ph.D., CPE, an ergonomics lecturer and principal of Ergoweb Inc., said the move shouldn’t be a surprise due to the age of the agreements. "On the other hand," he said, "they could have simply let them quietly die, rather than actively seeking to close them out, which seems telling."

Inside Washington Publishers, a news service that specializes in federal policy issues, reported on the cancellations earlier this month. The list of companies that have received letters from OSHA canceling the early agreements has not been released, according to the report, "Inside OSHA," but is known to include General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, ConAgra, Cargill, Tyson Foods and John Morrell & Company (now run by Smithfield Foods), according to ergoweb.com. OSHA told the companies it wants to cancel the agreements due to "administrative reasons," according to the agency's letter to Tyson Foods.

A labor source quoted in the article says it is too soon to tell what impact, if any, OSHA's actions will have on company ergonomics programs. "OSHA has not been monitoring (the settlement agreements) for years, probably since the Clinton administration," according to the source.

The cancellations are still very new, and labor unions and other proponents who collaborated for years to bring the 2000 ergonomics standard, which the Bush Administration overturned, are still assessing the implications. It remains to be seen if they will look for ways to fight the OSHA move or just wait until the 2008 election when there is a chance a government more committed to the health and safety of the country’s workers will take office, according to ergoweb.com.