WASHINGTON—Tire interests are overjoyed about Senate passage of a measure to block issuance of a controversial workplace safety rule, although their joy may not last long.
By a narrowly partisan, 52-43 vote, the Senate passed June 30 a Labor Department-Health and Human Services Department appropriations bill which includes a provision forbidding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from using any of its fiscal year 2001 funding to promulgate its ergonomics standard.
With the House labor bill, which passed earlier in June, also containing an anti-ergonomics section, this means the provision will remain in whatever legislative package comes out of House-Senate conference despite President Clinton's opposition, said Rebecca MacDicken, government affairs director for the Tire Association of North America (TANA).
"The bill will come back to Congress for reconciliation, and since both the House and Senate versions have the prohibition on ergonomics, it becomes a non-negotiable item in discussions," Ms. MacDicken said in a TANA press release. "Otherwise, the president will have some serious explaining to do."
Nevertheless, the president has vowed to veto any Labor-HHS appropriations package that includes an anti-ergonomics provision, and the measure's margin of support is too narrow to override a presidential veto.
Issued last Nov. 22, the OSHA proposed rule would require 1.9 million workplaces in the U.S. to establish basic ergonomics programs. The agency claims the proposal will prevent 300,000 workplace injuries annually, and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA)—which organizes U.S. rubber workers—has fought particularly hard for establishment of an ergonomics standard.
Rubber manufacturers and tire dealers, however, claim OSHA has no proof to back its claims about the rule, and insist it will prove prohibitively expensive to implement.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association said studies it has conducted showed that it would cost U.S. tire makers nearly $70,000 per worker merely to retrofit tire machines according to OSHA's requirements.
However, the USWA said one of its members is killed on the job every 12.5 days and injured every 15 minutes.