Not sitting well Featured

9:43am EDT July 22, 2002

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration introduced new rules regarding ergonomic conditions in the workplace, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business wasn’t about to take the lengthy regulations, well, lying down.

U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond described the proposal as “a devastatingly broad and intrusive regulation” which lacks sufficient science to make it useful to employers of all sizes.

In comments submitted for the record on the proposal, Bond says, “This regulation is so fundamentally flawed that OSHA must withdraw this proposal ... Despite extensive input from small businesses throughout the panel convened under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, OSHA is pursuing a regulation that will create confusion, extreme burdens, disruptions, distortions and liability without any predictable success.

“Unfortunately, the agency has chosen an adversarial approach to the most complicated and difficult regulation ever pursued in the name of worker safety.”

To fight the regulation, Sen. Bond recently introduced Senate Bill 1070 (called the SENSE Act), which would halt the regulations until a study could be completed by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether enough scientific evidence exists to support the new standards.

If the new regulations aren’t stopped, Sen. Bond contends, they will cost plenty as businesses across the country attempt to comply. While OSHA estimates a total cost to all businesses at roughly $4.2 billion, the American Health Care Association estimates the cost of compliance for nursing home facilities alone could be at least $5.6 billion. And the Employment Policy Foundation, Sen. Bond says, estimates that costs could reach as high as $80 billion for the entire economy.

Says Bond of the proposed rules: “Instead of providing employers with useful, scientifically sound and practical guidance, OSHA has chosen to impose a vague, open-ended regulatory trap that will only increase the amount of revenue and legal actions generated by citations and penalties.”

Help for the oil price-impaired

President Bill Clinton has offered some relief to small businesses feeling the crunch of skyrocketing oil prices.

Such businesses now have access through the U.S. Small Business Administration to government-backed loans to relieve the price pressure. President Clinton says his directive targets, for instance, heating oil dealers, who could use the funds to extend flexible payment terms to customers, or trucking companies.

The president has asked Congress to appropriate $1 million for the relief fund, which would provide enough backing for $86 million in loans, which would be made under existing 7(a) programs.

“SBA’s existing mix of loan products under the business loan guaranty program is flexible enough to deal with this situation,” says SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez in a prepared statement. “In fact, we have several short-term revolving loan programs, such as SBA Express and CAPLines, which are especially suitable for helping these small businesses get through this temporary crisis.” How to reach: SBA Answer Desk, (800) U-ASK-SBA, or visit www.sba.gov. for loan information.

Help on the North Shore

If you’re just starting or trying to grow a business, the Small Business Administration, in partnership with the North Side Civic Development Council, has opened a Business Information Center to help you.

The center, established to serve businesses in Western Pennsylvania’s 27 counties, is designed to provide one-stop assistance and advice for business owners, including a wide range of computer hardware and software, as well as a library of resources. And it’s all free.

Says Al Jones, district director of the SBA’s Pittsburgh district office: “We are proud to partner with the North Side Civic Development Council to bring this valuable resource to our region.”

How to reach: For information on the new center, contact Donald Nemchick at the SBA at (412) 395-6560, ext. 117.

Compiled by Daniel Bates.