Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Monday, April 18, 2005

Anti-Ergo Coalition Goes Off Deep End

My mother always told me that it was impolite to stare or point or pay any undue attention to crazy people standing out on the street corner ranting and raving about all sorts of things that don't make sense except in their altered state of mind. They couldn’t help it and we should just be thankful that we were in possession of all of our faculties.

I was reminded of Mom's advice when I read an article in the latest issue of Inside OSHA (paid subscription) that impolitely stares and points at the crazy people, in this case, the National Coalition on Ergonomics, the notorious anti-ergonomics, anti-truth business coalition that led the successful campaign against the Clinton administration's ergonomics standard.

The National Coalition on Ergonomics (NCE) is petitioning OSHA to revamp its ergonomics guidelines for the poultry processing, retail grocery and nursing home industries. The coalition claims OSHA has violated the Information Quality Act (IQA) by asserting there is adequate science to support the guidelines.
The Information Quality Act (also known as the Data Quality Act), which according to OMB Watch is an
unnecessary bureaucratic requirement that unfairly allows industry to delay, dilute and derail environmental, health and safety protections. The act, and its subsequent guidelines developed by OMB and federal agencies, allow affected parties to challenge and recommend corrections of information disseminated by agencies.
What they’re really trying to say, if we can read between the lines of their ravings, is that there is no science behind ergonomics. No science that says lifting 37,000 pounds a day might cause shoulder injuries, no science that says lifting ten thousand live chickens above your head every day might cause some kind of repetitive stress injury. (On the other hand, one labor observer remarked that it’s really much ado about nothing; OSHA didn’t bother to actually put any science into the wishy-washy guidelines.)

Sure, they may be one beer short of a six-pack, but it's hard work not to laugh at them when they claim that OSHA is “relying solely on a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health," their minds denying the reality of the NIOSH report (actually a survey of more than 600 scientific studies) that concluded that
A substantial body of credible epidemiologic research provides strong evidence of an associationbetween MSDs and certain work-related physical factors when there are high levels of exposure and especially in combination with exposure to more than one physical factor (e.g., repetitive lifting of heavy objects in extreme or awkward postures.
And we try not to make fun of them for blocking out the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences reports requested by Congressional Republicans (a short one and a longer one commissioned because Republicans didn't like the results of the first), that reviewed 800 scientific studies and found that there is strong scientific evidence that workplace exposures cause musculoskeletal disorders and that the kinds of measures required by the OSHA standard are the most effective means to prevent these injuries.

Can’t our society find a way to put these people someplace where they won’t endanger themselves or other innocent people, somewhere where they can perform some useful service -- making license plates, for example -- far away from the stresses of modern civilization?

Note: It is not my intention to degrade or debase any real people, living or dead, who suffer from mental illness by associating them with the unsavory subjects of this article. If I have offended anyone (aside from members of the National Coalition on Ergonomics,) I apologize.

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