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July 12, 2002

Court decision upholds state's ergonomics worker safety rule

TUMWATER - The state's new ergonomics rule was upheld today by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Paula Casey.

"We are pleased with the judge's decision," said Department of Labor & Industries Director Gary Moore. "This is good news for the workers of the state of Washington who suffer more than 50,000 ergonomic-related injuries every year. These are costly injuries and this ruling will save employers money on the bottom-line. This decision takes us a step closer to preventing these painful, debilitating injuries."

The ruling rejected a business coalition's contention that the department exceeded its authority under state law, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and did not properly follow rule-making requirements.

Moore said that today's court ruling affirms that the state acted properly when it adopted these regulations. "We will continue our efforts to work with employers and employees as the regulation is phased in over the next seven years," he said.

The ergonomics rule was adopted in May of 2000. Each year, 50,000 Washington workers suffer work-related musculoskeletal injuries. The injuries cost the state's workers' compensation system more than $411 million a year in medical treatment and partial wage replacement payments.

The rule requires employers to protect their employees from work-related injuries such as back strain, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The rule took effect July 1. Enforcement will be phased in, beginning July 1, 2004. L&I is working with businesses and employee groups to conduct comprehensive education and outreach efforts.

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