National News Release USDL: 01-224
July 16, 2001
Contact: Stuart Roy
Phone: (202) 693-4650
CHAO SEEKS ANSWERS TO REDUCING ERGONOMIC INJURIES - Wants to Avoid Pitfalls of Previous Regulation
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao today opened the first of three public forums to be held over the next two weeks with a call for answers on the issue of ergonomic injuries and a warning to all sides to set aside politics and concentrate on worker protection.
"The issue isn't about whether we should deal with ergonomic injuries," Chao said. "It's about how we deal with them. That is why I've spent more time than any previous labor secretary meeting with injured workers and other stakeholders to hear what they think about ergonomic injuries and the best way to prevent them."
Chao also cautioned against repeating the mistakes that led to congressional invalidation of the previous ergonomics regulation after numerous complaints that it was too far-reaching and unworkable.
"My responsibility as Secretary of Labor is to safeguard workers' health and safety. We will not fulfill that responsibility if we pursue an approach that raises the same objections and meets the same end as the previous ergonomics standard," Chao stated.
"As they say in my home state of Kentucky, there's no education in the second kick of a mule."
Chao encouraged forum participants to work on solutions to the problem of ergonomic injuries and to set aside politics. "We can choose to do one of two things: we can play politics, or we can protect workers," she said. "The only way we will succeed in protecting workers from ergonomics hazards is if we begin with an open mind, which I urge all participants to bring to these forums."
Held at the George Mason University Arlington Campus Professional Center, the first forum features panels representing labor and industry as well as an additional 28 speakers today and tomorrow.
Participants in the information-gathering sessions have been asked to address three issues: how to define an ergonomics injury; how to determine whether an ergonomics injury stems from work, from other activities or some combination; and what are the most useful and cost-effective types of government involvement to address these injuries.
All three meetings are open to the public, and agendas are posted on the ergonomics page on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. OSHA is accepting public comments on ergonomics through Aug. 3 via the website or sent to OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-777A, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room N-2625, Washington, DC 20210.
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