WASHINGTON—The pending ergonomics standard from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could cost the trucking industry up to $6.5 billion annually, according to a study released by the American Trucking Associations. This is 25 times what OSHA estimated the industry would pay to comply with the draft rule, the ATA said in the study dated October 1996 but not released until this month.
OSHA issued the draft document on ergonomics—the science of matching human physical capability to work and technology—in March 1995.
At the time, the agency released its own compliance analysis, estimating the total annual cost of compliance for U.S. industry at $4.5 billion. Truckers, according to the analysis, would pay $257 million each year to comply.
``However, private carriers (trucks owned and operated by other industries) account for 95 percent of commercial trucks and were not addressed by OSHA at all,'' the ATA said in its study.
The ATA study—performed for the association by National Economic Research Associates—showed truck fleet operators would have to institute sweeping capital investments and operational changes to obey the ergonomics rule as it is now written.
Additional truck equipment, additional staff, shorter work shifts and major terminal modifications are among the changes truckers will have to make.
These changes translate into $1.7 billion for new equipment, $2.4 billion for increased terminal costs and $2.4 billion for increased labor costs, according to the study.
OSHA estimates U.S. industry will achieve $14 billion in benefits from the ergonomics standard. These benefits include prevention of tendinitis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and other work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
But even accepting the agency's cost estimates, the ergonomics standard is still not cost-effective for the trucking industry, according to the ATA study.
``While OSHA determined that benefits were twice costs in the aggregate, OSHA's estimated costs for the trucking industry actually exceed OSHA's compliance benefits attributed to the trucking industry,'' it said.
Nearly two years after issuing the draft rule, OSHA still has not published a formal proposal on ergonomics. OSHA Administrator Joseph Dear said the agency will soon publish a notice in the Federal Register for public comment on what provisions an ergonomics rule should include.
The ATA, meanwhile, said it is prepared to fight a California state ergonomics rule in court. That statute was issued Nov. 14 by the California Occupational Safety and Health Board, but has not gone into effect because of continuing review by the California Office of Administrative Law.
That review should be completed in January, the association said.