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Jan. 25, 2011

Obama Administration Wrong to Bow to Industry on Tracking Musculoskeletal Disorders

Statement of Alex Chasick, Policy Counsel, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

We are mystified by today’s announcement that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suspending its proposed rule to restore a tracking mechanism for work-related musculoskeletal disorders on employer injury and illness logs.

OSHA fully understands the need for this rule. In its statement announcing the withdrawal of the rule, OSHA administrator David Michaels noted that “work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces.”

 In fact, repetitive motion injuries do silent violence to workers across the nation. It is hardly asking too much to require employers to check a box indicating that a work-related injury is a musculoskeletal disorder.

The costs of this proposed rule are miniscule. OSHA’s proposed rule determined that the costs per business of becoming familiar with the change and recording musculoskeletal disorders as such would be approximately four dollars for the first year and 67 cents for subsequent years.

This rule has been held up by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which should not have reviewed the rule in the first place, and has missed deadlines for completing review. Now this rule is being improperly subjected to a small business review panel. Neither of these additional review procedures is appropriate for a rule with such a small economic impact.

This is the second rule that OSHA has withdrawn since the president issued an op-ed, memorandum and executive order criticizing regulations and calling for more business influence in the rulemaking process. Last week, the administration backed off a proposed workplace noise rule in response to complaints from major business groups. We are troubled by the implications of these actions, and urge OSHA to resume its efforts to protect workers from injuries and illnesses.

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