A proposed bill that would have stopped OSHA from promulgating an ergonomics standard was killed in the Capitol last month in a compromise between Republican and Democratic House Appropriations Committee leaders.

The bill, which was proposed by Representative Henry Bonilla (R-TX), would have stopped OSHA from making a ergonomics law until the National Academy of Science studied the issue to determine whether a standard was needed.

Every year more than 700,000 workers lose time from work because of repetitive strain and back injuries, which are caused by doing the same movement repeatedly or by lifting heavy objects.

Poor ergonomics, or equipment design, can add to repetitive strain and lead to Musculoskeletal Disorder. The disorder is common in the construction industry, according to Pete Chaney, the director of safety and health for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. Musculoskeletal Disorder includes carpel tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and other joint injuries.

“The medical community cannot prove if Musculoskeletal Disorder is due to repetitive motion,” Chaney said. “They can’t prove if it is related to the industry. If the disorder is, then it becomes a worker’s comp issue.”

Repetitive strain cost industries $20 billion a year in lost production, time off and medical costs.

Experts estimate that over 50 percent of all worker’s compensation cases are fraudulent. The number of false claims would rise significantly if the new bill is passed.

The Appropriations Committee said no funds from the current proposal can be used by OSHA to create a final ergonomics standard before September 30, 1998.

“We do not want contractors paying for injuries that are not work related,” said Chaney. “Some of these injuries can be coming from other things, like genetics or even an old football injury.”