|The Economics of Ergonomics|
|Topic||Market Failure, Regulation, and Public Choice|
|Key Words||Rules, employers, hazards, pay and benefits, cost-effective, jobs, benefits, costs|
The Clinton Administration is to propose new rules to protect workers from the effects of repetitive strain injuries caused by repetitive motion, climbing, crawling, bending and overexertion. Employers will have to have ergonomics programs: the health risks of various jobs will have to be analyzed; where there are hazards, the jobs will have to be redesigned, and employees will have to have treatment for work-related medical problems. Employers will also be required to provide full pay and benefits for six months to workers who are removed or reassigned due to their injuries.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration believes that the rules will be cost-effective, reducing for example strains and sprains, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and hernias by 32,000 to 95,000 injuries each year. Employers would have to fix 4.5 million jobs in the first year and fewer thereafter. The total cost of the rules would be $3.5 billion in the first year.
Critics include business groups who say the rules are too expensive relative to the benefits. The Small Business Administration believes that the first-year cost will be more like $18 billion, partly due to the guarantee of full pay and benefits for injured workers. While the House delayed the rules pending further research, the Senate did not act, so the President is free to act.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
|Source||Robert Pear, "After Long Delay, U.S. Plans to Issue Ergonomic Rules," The New York Times, November 22, 1999.|
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