Congress' rejection of former President Clinton's workplace ergonomics regulations could spare healthcare organizations a fortune in implementation costs.
The broad regulations that would have required employers to assess and fix workplace problems that lead to musculoskeletal injuries could have cost the nursing home industry $1.2 billion in its first year, according to an estimate by the American Health Care Association.
The American Hospital Association predicted it would have cost hospitals "hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with the regulation."
The Senate and House voted last week to repeal the workplace ergonomics regulations largely along party lines. President Bush has said he will sign the bill repealing the rules.
The regulations, which were to be administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, became effective four days before Clinton left office. The estimated 6.1 million work sites covered by it would have had until October 2001 to comply.
Critics of the OSHA regulations, including the AHA and nursing home and home-care associations, said the regulations were too costly, vague and scientifically unsound.
Supporters, including the American Nurses Association and labor unions, said the ergonomics standards were needed to address dangerous working conditions in healthcare.
The nursing home industry is more dangerous than coal mining, lumber and steel-making, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it is one of five industries targeted by OSHA in recent years for reducing workplace injuries. Nursing and personal-care facilities experienced 14.2 cases of work-related injuries and illnesses per 100 employees in 1998, according to the labor bureau. By comparison, at hospitals the rate of work-related injuries and illnesses was 9.2 per 100 employees in 1998.
The AHCA, which represents assisted-living, subacute and skilled-nursing providers, said it favors voluntary efforts to reduce work-related injuries.
"We believe the proposed rule would actually reverse the positive trend toward lower rates of work-related injuries, because it would divert limited resources away from further improvements," said AHCA President Charles Roadman, M.D.