DISTRIBUTORS TOLD TO FOCUS ON INJURIES, NOT OSHA

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Food distributors should concentrate on improving the injury reduction programs they already have in place at the same time the industry works to turn back a sweeping new ergonomics regulation.y potential benefits, they met to discuss ways to prevent the rules, issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration last fall to protect workers from injuries caused by such

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Food distributors should concentrate on improving the injury reduction programs they already have in place at the same time the industry works to turn back a sweeping new ergonomics regulation.

y potential benefits, they met to discuss ways to prevent the rules, issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration last fall to protect workers from injuries caused by such activities as repetitive motions or heavy lifting, from coming into effect.

FDI officials said employers have until Oct. 15 to comply with the regulation, including altering working conditions and configurations to address worker complaints. They added that the food industry is working to persuade Congress to defeat the regulation under the Congressional Review Act,and urged food distributors to lobby their congressional representatives and invite them to their facilities so they can see first-hand what burdens the regulation would impose.

Baruch Fellner, lead litigator in the suit filed by the ergonomics coalition and the National Association of Manufacturers to overturn the regulation, said the suit is not likely to be resolved before mid-2002. In the meantime, he said, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao will be asked to stay the regulation.

"We have every reason to believe [she] will be much more sympathetic than her predecessor, but she can't grant it if we don't give her evidence in support of granting it," he said. He urged employers to provide affidavits providing numbers on exactly how the standard would harm them.

Jim Koskan, corporate risk control manager, Supervalu, Minneapolis, said, "We would all be better off to have fewer injuries in general, and lifting injuries make up the vast majority of the injuries we have. Is there a connection between productivity and ergonomics? Absolutely, there is. If you put something in place to address OSHA's stated goal -- and your stated goal -- to reduce the frequency and severity of costly, inefficient injuries, there's going to be common ground there."