WASHINGTON (April 26)—Labor Secretary Elaine Chao faced hostile questioning from senators who insisted to know why she didn't have a deadline or timetable for setting a new workplace standard for ergonomics. "I want to know what you're going to do and when you're going to do it," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Chao replied that the issues surrounding ergonomics are too complex to allow for deadlines in issuing a new rule. "The diversity of opinion is truly vast," said Chao, who argued that trying to write a rule without a consensus would end in failure. Specter was unconvinced: "If you had a consensus, you wouldn't need a Department of Labor or a Senate subcommittee," he said. Specter and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, were applauded by labor union members in the hearing audience for their pro-ergonomics stances. These same people hissed Chao for her insistence that a deadline would damage the rulemaking process. In her testimony, Chao said she sought an ergonomics standard based on prevention, sound science and cooperation between government and business. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should avoid the "one size fits all" approach, she said, and should concentrate on "short, simple and common-sense instructions" to ensure compliance.
Labor Secretary Chao grilled on ergonomics
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