Congress unlikely to block OSHA ergonomics effort

House and Senate negotiators worked Thursday to try to reach agreement on the fiscal 2001 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill that contains an amendment that would block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from implementing a rule on ergonomics.

However, it appears that the controversial rider will be removed before the appropriations bill goes to President Clinton for signing, sources said.

Clinton has signaled his intention to veto any legislation that blocks the ergonomics rule. A staffer for one key lawmaker in favor of the rider signaled a willingness to let the amendment be changed or pulled from the appropriations bill.

"The House and the Senate have been clear about their view of this rule, but so has the administration," the staffer said. "Bottom line, the government won't be shut down over this issue." It will be up to the next administration to make the final decision about the rule, the staffer added.

An insurance industry source also sounded desultory Thursday afternoon about blocking the ergonomics rule, saying: "Prospects are dim. There's still a chance, but it's slight." She said industry is considering a lawsuit if the ergonomics rule goes into effect.

Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-NC, said Wednesday that the workplace ergonomics issue remained up in the air, but added that he is suggesting to the business community that a lawsuit may be the only way to stop the administration from issuing the controversial rule.

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