The Supreme Court of the state of Washington has ruled that state regulators have the authority to enforce the General Duty Clause with respect to serious ergonomics-related hazards, according to a report by Business & Legal Reports.

In 2003, voters in Washington repealed, via a ballot initiative, controversial ergonomics regulations that the state's Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopted in 2000. The state's Supreme Court was asked to decide whether voters intended to repeal both the regulations and the state's authority to enforce the state's General Duty Clause with respect to serious ergonomics-related hazards.

A lower court had ruled in favor of SuperValu Inc., which argued that the ballot initiative removed the state's authority to use the General Duty Clause to investigate and cite ergonomics-related hazards.

However, the state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the 2003 initiative included no language mentioning the General Duty Clause. “Nothing in [the ballot initiative] suggests that L&I is stripped of its general regulatory authority to address serious or deadly ergonomics-related workplace hazards” via the General Duty Clause, the court concluded.

The state Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order quashing, L&I's motion to enforce a subpoena, and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.