Coming on the heels of OSHA's new, largely voluntary plan aimed at educating employers on how to reduce workplace ergonomics risks, Senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) are expected to introduce a bill that would force the Secretary of Labor to issue an ergonomics rule.

The bill, similar to one Breaux and Specter cosponsored last year after Congress voted down the Clinton administration's ergo standard, could be proposed any day now, according to a Senate staffer.

Requirements of the Breaux-Specter proposal include:

  • The Secretary of Labor must issue a final ergo rule within two years of the bill's passage. The standard must take effect within 90 days after the standard is published.

  • The standard must specifically address work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and workplace ergonomics hazards.

  • The standard will not apply to MSDs that are not work related.

  • Clear terms must be used to define the circumstances under which an employer is required to take action to address ergo hazards, the measures required of an employer under the standard, and the compliance obligations of an employer.

  • Preventing injuries before they occur must be emphasized, and the standard must cover all industries where workers are exposed to job-related ergo hazards and where economically and technically feasible hazard control measures exist.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized: "Talk about repetitive strain: This deserving bill only reworks what should never have been torn down in the first place."

    Ergo combatants, restart your engines¿