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VDT STUDY EXPANDS KNOWN CAUSES OF REPETITIVE MOTION ILLNESS

 VDT STUDY EXPANDS KNOWN CAUSES OF REPETITIVE MOTION ILLNESS
 WASHINGTON, July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- A major independent study of telecommunications workers who use video display terminals, released today by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, shows that work practices and organization as well as psychological factors are significant causes of ergonomic VDT injuries.
 Most prior studies have acknowledged only physical causes of repetitive motion disorders, which affect an estimated 50 million to 70 million American workers.
 Three years in preparation at the joint request of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and U S West, the study identifies 22 percent of 533 participants as victims of upper body repetitive motion disorders. This, despite the fact that NIOSH found U S West in compliance with 80 percent of established physical standards for VDT workplaces, the best record of any telecommunications company whose workers are represented by CWA.
 "This study clearly shows that how workers are treated by management is at least as important in preventing repetitive motion injuries as the equipment they are expected to use," said CWA President Morton Bahr.
 The NIOSH study found that psychological considerations such as job insecurity, high productivity demands, surges in workload, lack of control over work methods and lack of support by co-workers all contribute to VDT illnesses.
 Its report also stated that work practice variables such as wearing bifocals or contact lenses, typing skill and frequency of rising from the chair play an important role in developing ergonomic disorders. It also found that work organization factors like overtime, task variation and frequency of breaks are significant.
 With voluntary participation of 93 percent of selected employees in five occupations at three different locations, the study represents "the largest, most comprehensive scientific investigation of VDT ergonomic illnesses to date," said CWA Executive Vice President M.E. Nichols, who with David LeGrande of CWA's Office of Occupational Safety and Health, coordinated the union's participation.
 Conducted at U S West's Phoenix, Denver and Minneapolis locations, the study found that tendon-related disorders affected 15 percent of participants and that 12 percent manifested hand or wrist problems. Others had arm, shoulder, neck or back disorders.
 The incidence of ergonomic VDT illness NIOSH found is broken down by job category:
 -- Loop provisioning center workers -- 36 percent.
 -- Recent change memory administration center employees -- 25 percent.
 -- Directory assistance operators -- 22 percent.
 -- Centralized mail remittance workers -- 20 percent.
 -- Service representatives -- 6 percent.
 Concurring with numerous studies conducted with CWA over the last decade by Dr. Michael Smith of the University of Wisconsin, the agency found that workers experienced additional stress because of electronic monitoring. Those who believed that it prevented socialization, brought on extra complaints from supervisors or increased workload were also more prone to ergonomic problems.
 NIOSH commended CWA and U S West on their use of joint labor management committees on the regional and local levels, which led to the company's high compliance with physical VDT guidelines. The agency encouraged the committees to continue to address the physical, work design and psychosocial causes of ergonomic VDT illnesses.
 CWA represents over 600,000 workers in telecommunications, printing, publishing, media, health care and the public sector in the United States and Canada, including 39,212 workers at U S West.
 -0- 7/20/92 R
 /CONTACT: Jeff Miller or Gaye Mack Williams of the Communications Workers of America, 202-434-1172/ CO: Communications Workers of America ST: District of Columbia IN: TLS HEA SU:


1125 -- DC012 -- 0723 07/20/92 12:13 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 20, 1992
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