The Senate Labor Committee hearing on ergonomics with Labor Secretary Chao scheduled for Thursday, March 14, was postponed. Sources say there is now a direct conflict with the mark-up on the judicial nomination of Charles Pickering, since that vote was delayed by Republicans.

Plus, sources say the White House has told the Senate that they will not have an ergo announcement until mid-April.

The first hint about what might happen appeared in the form of the OSHA fiscal 2003 budget justification document recently submitted to Congress.

According to the document, OSHA "will develop industry specific, as well as task and operational specific, guidelines that address ergonomic injuries in the workplace." OSHA chief John Henshaw told ISHN not to read too much into that announcement. "We're going to be issuing guidelines on many things," he said.

No new date has been set for the Senate Labor Committee hearing, and it's not clear if it will be held before or after the administration's announcement.

Chao was asked in a letter February 28 signed by three Democratic senators for the names of all officials, including those at the White House, who have been part of devising a new policy.

This latest delay in the Bush announcement comes after the Senate Appropriations Committee rescheduled its hearing on Department of Labor appropriations with Secretary Chao from March 21 until April 11. This committee, led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chastised Chao last year for her inaction on ergo.

March 20, 2002, marks the one-year anniversary of the repeal of the ergonomics standard. Since last year, 1.8 million workplace ergonomics-related injuries have occurred, according to a running count kept by the AFL-CIO.