Even prior to last year’s presidential election, many OSHA watchers were saying no matter the outcome, the new OSHA leadership regime shouldn’t touch the hot-button ergonomics standard issue with a ten-foot pole. It’s politically radioactive, they warned.

To have another go at writing an ergo standard after Congress deep-sixed the Clinton administration’s final ergo rule in 2001 would be a waste of time, energy and money on an initiative certain to be fought tooth and nail by business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, according to a number of OSHA policy followers.

Many of them advised if OSHA wants to mount a major, sweeping standards project, crafting an injury-illness prevention program that details the essential requirements of any safety and health program would be a major contribution to worker protection, more politically palatable than an ergo standard, and carry less baggage than the long fought-over ergo rule.

But… in a June 11th briefing to over 75 trade unionists and safety and health professionals in New York City, acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab said a new ergonomics standard is in the early planning stages. “Ergonomics is a huge health and safety problem identified by recognized science. The issue is a huge political football.” It’s “a new day at OSHA and we’re looking for people who want to join with us,” he said.

The briefing was sponsored by the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety (NYCOSH), the New York State AFL-CIO and New York City Central Labor Council, took place at the New York City District Council of Carpenters.