In catching up on the Office of Labor and Management Standards yesterday, we learned of a new site sponsored by one of the lesser members of organized labor’s popular front, American Rights at Work, a 501(c)(4) organization (overtly political, not tax deductible). The group, headed by David Bonior, has a lovely new web project going, Shame on Elaine, another example of labor’s ugly practice of personalizing policy disputes (besides being weirdly late to the game in the last year of the administration). Quick summary: U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao is a bad person.
One section stood out, not just for its vulgar title, “Screwing Workers,” but also for the timeliness of its wrongness.
Nixing Ergonomics Rules: In 2001, more than 600,000 workers a year had to take time off from work because of ergonomic-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Despite convincing evidence on the significance of conditions caused by repetitive motion, Elaine sided with corporations and against worker safety.
Uh, huh. And here’s Walter Olson at Point of Law summarizing a new AP report on ergonomics studies.
The AP reports that since the 1990s, the height of concern over the issue, “carpal tunnel cases have plummeted, declining 21 percent in 2006 alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among workers in professional and business services, the number of carpal tunnel syndrome cases fell by half between 2005 and 2006.” Researchers are concluding that while repetitive stress injury, to use another catch-phrase, is indeed a serious job hazard for some workers who engage in physically demanding tasks like meat-cutting, mattress-flipping, and so forth, it was greatly overdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as a malady afflicting computer keyboard users. (Ergonomic improvements such as wrist rests for mouse pads have undoubtedly helped, but are unlikely to explain the whole drop, especially since time devoted to keyboarding among the population seems to be rising steadily.) “A 2001 study by the Mayo Clinic found heavy computer users (up to seven hours a day) had the same rate of carpal tunnel as the general population. Harvard University headlined a 2005 press release ‘Computer use deleted as carpal tunnel syndrome cause.'”
The proposed ergonomics rules promoted so aggressively by groups like American Rights at Work would have rewarded and institutionalized all those overdiagnosed or misdiagnosed claims, costing employers millions of dollars, harming productivity and doing nothing to benefit the serious sufferers of ergonomic injuries.
Elaine Chao was right on this one, just as she was right on so many other issues that this dishonorable group now attacks her for.
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