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Reports for October 21-24, 2003
Oct. 24 -- U.S.
Navy has adopted Washington State Ergonomic Rule
Oct. 23 -- Friday,
Oct. 24 is "National Take Back Your Time Day"
Oct. 22 --
oppose I-841 as "setback to safe workplaces"
Oct. 21 -- No on I-841: Keep working
families and employers healthy
The United States Navy implemented a prevention-based ergonomics standard last year identical to Washington state’s ergonomic rule.
"World-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo challenging all defense departments to reduce injury rates at military installations by 50 percent over the next two years. "We owe no less to the men and women who defend our nation." (This memo is posted at www.navosh.net/ergonomics/documents/challenge.pdf.)
The U.S. Navy Occupational Safety and Health (NAVOSH) Program Manual (posted at www.navosh.net/docs/public/481/23f.pdf) in Chapter 23, Appendix A includes a worksite assessment checklist identical to Washington’s -- even citing the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries as a source -- which is being used at Navy bases across the country to identify "risk factors" for workplace ergonomic injuries. In addition, Naval officers who identify these hazards are instructed to reduce the hazard level "to the degree technologically and economically feasible," exactly as Washington employers are under the state rule.
"We saw Washington’s rule as a great tool to identify risk factors (for ergonomic injuries) so we wanted to adopt it for the Navy," said Cathy Rothwell, a Navy Ergonomics Program Manager based in San Diego. "The feedback we’ve gotten from people in the field is that they like the checklist. It is widely accepted and widely used as an easy way to identify hazards."
The Washington state business lobbying groups financing Initiative 841, which would repeal the state ergonomic safety rule, have argued that the rule is too confusing and that there is no proven benefit to ergonomic safety prevention.
"Obviously, the United States Navy disagrees with the special interests trying to kill our ergonomic safety rule," said Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council, which opposes I-841. "I agree with the Secretary of Defense, we owe no less to the working men and women of Washington state to insist that workplace hazards be removed and injuries prevented. It’s good common sense."
"The Navy is very serious about ergonomic safety," said Rick Williams, president of the Bremerton Metal Trades Council which represents workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. "They know that avoiding preventable injuries saves money and improves mission readiness. It’s really just common sense and it absolutely works."
For more information, contact David Groves at (206) 281-8901 or via cell (206) 979-1299.
The following Call to Action comes from International Association of Machinists District 751:
If you lived in Western Europe, you'd be done working for the year.
Americans now work nine weeks more each year than Western Europeans. We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000. In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.
Friday, October 24, with nine weeks left in 2003, thousands of Americans will JUST SAY NO to the overwork, over-scheduling and overstress that threaten to overwhelm our lives. They'll take the day or part of it off work, and join in hundreds of activities to initiate a much-needed national conversation about work/life balance and how we can reclaim it.
In Seattle, the celebration of National Take Back Your Time Day will begin tonight (Thursday) at a forum from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Mountaineers hall, 300 3rd Ave. West in lower Queen Anne. There will be music, theater and conversation for a suggested donation of $3. Speakers will include Gretchen Burger of NTBYT, Cecile Andres of Simplicity Circles, State Sen. Karen Keiser, Stephen Bezruchka of the UW School of Public Health and others.
Are you, or your friends or relatives, working more now but enjoying it less? Does your family's schedule feel like a road race? If so, you're not alone. Millions of Americans are overworked, over-scheduled and just plain stressed out. They complain of unprecedented levels of busyness in everyday life. They worry about frenetic schedules, hurried children, couples with no time together, families who rarely eat meals together, and an onslaught of "hidden work" from proliferating emails, junk mail and telemarketing calls.
American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected.
Overwork hurts all of us in different ways:
Take Back Your Time Day is not anti-work. Useful and creative work is essential to happiness. But American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected.
The Take Back Your Time Day model is the first Earth Day, which brought a new environmental awareness to America, leading within two years to the passage of the most significant ecological legislation in our history -- the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts.
For more information, visit www.timeday.org.
The following election endorsement appears in the latest edition of the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, which joins the state's most powerful and influential newspapers in urging voters to reject Initiative 841:
A group of leading ergonomists, doctors, nurses and other public health experts has stepped forward to support safe workplaces by opposing Initiative 841, the measure created by special-interest business organizations to repeal the state’s workplace ergonomic safety rule.
“Washington workers and employers can’t afford the setback to safe workplaces that Initiative 841 would cause,” said Kate Stewart, MS, CPE, an ergonomist with StewartPrezant Ergonomics Group. “We shouldn’t allow business to recall a common sense rule that protects thousands of workers from serious injuries.”
After the special-interest business groups sponsoring I-841 recently touted two "leading" ergonomists who support repeal of the safety rule (see story at right), a group of Certified Professional Ergonomists and other work safety professionals in Washington stepped forward to express opposition to I-841 and support for the state's prevention-based ergonomic safety rule. (See list of names below.)
Many professional health care groups have already endorsed the No-on-841 campaign. They include the Washington State Nurses Association, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington State Public Health Association, the Washington State Council of Perioperative Nurses, the Washington Chiropractic Association, the Washington Council of Fire Fighters and others.
Washington's ergonomic safety rule also has been endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Centers For Disease Control). Dr. Linda Rosenstock, the Director of NIOSH, testified: “The bottom line is that we know enough now to prevent or reduce many of these disorders, and the Washington state ergonomics rule is an effective and scientifically valid way to do so.”
The State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopted its ergonomics rule in May 2000. It requires employers with hazardous jobs to take feasible steps to limit workplace exposure to those hazards that cause work-related musculoskeletal injuries like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and low back strain. Every year, more than 50,000 Washington workers suffer these injuries costing the workers' compensation system more than $1 billion -- nearly one half of all costs to that system.
Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing workplaces with workers in mind, so that jobs can be done safely without exceeding the physical limits of the human body. This means taking measures to ensure that jobs do not require highly repetitive motions, excessive hand forces, extremely awkward postures, or frequent heavy lifting.
“Ergonomics works, “ said Randy Loomans, Safety and Education Director for the Washington State Labor Council. “By taking simple, inexpensive steps to keep jobs safe employers not only prevent injuries but also usually find that they have become more productive and competitive. Ergonomics is not only good science, it is good business.”
There are many positive examples of ergonomics in Washington workplaces. However, after more than 10 years of working with employers on a voluntary basis, an L&I survey of 5,000 Washington businesses revealed that 60 percent of employers report no efforts to reduce ergonomic-related injuries. Even among employers who recognize that injuries have occurred in their workplaces, 40 percent report no efforts to reduce the hazards that cause them.
An economic analysis by L&I demonstrates that the benefits of the ergonomics rule will outweigh its costs. For every dollar invested in fixing a dangerous job, L&I estimates four dollars will be saved through reduced medical costs and improved productivity.
The rule was designed to protect jobs. Employers are only required to take steps that are economically feasible and no employer is required to replace full-time with part-time workers or to reduce an employee’s work hours.
A Blue Ribbon Panel of national experts -- that included representatives from the business community, including Boeing -- has found the ergonomics rule easy to understand and use. The panel reported “the rule itself is clearly written… and usually free of bureaucratic legal jargon.”
Here is a list of ergonomists
and health care experts who have expressed opposition to the ergonomic
The following op-ed by WSLC President Rick Bender appears in today's edition of the Seattle Times:
If you have news items regarding unions or workplace issues in Washington state that you would like to see posted here, please submit them via e-mail to David Groves or via fax to 206-285-5805.
Copyright © 2003 Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO