WASHINGTON - Auto companies can take new federal ergonomics rules off their radar screens, probably for as long as President Bush is in the White House.
'For the time being, and for the foreseeable future,' the rules are dead, said Tom Greene, COO for legislative affairs of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
NADA was part of a broad, high-powered coalition of business groups that declared victory last week after the GOP-controlled Congress and Republican president wiped out new workplace injury rules that were adopted late in the Clinton administration.
The regulations, a decade in the making, were aimed at muscle and joint ailments caused by repetitive motions, awkward work positions and poorly designed machinery.
Business groups said they were ill conceived. 'The rule would have imposed excessive costs and confusing regulatory burdens on our members ... with little or no benefit to these companies,' said Claire Heffernan. She is vice president of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, representing more than 700 suppliers.
Democrats said the rules would have prevented thousands of injuries each year and said the repeal effort cast suspicion on Bush's call for a new bipartisan spirit. 'This is a political payoff,' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Automakers were less visible in the fight. Assembly plants already have ergonomics programs. The UAW has applauded the programs at organized plants as models for the country.