Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Ergonomics: Living in the Past

When I read this editorial in the Detroit News today, I had to look at the date to make sure I hadn't stumbled across an old article:
Workplace injuries caused by repetitive activities like typing or assembling parts have left many workers in pain, and many employers bearing the painful costs of disability claims.

And yet the science about what causes the injuries and how they can be avoided remains inexact.

Still, a group of scientists wants the Bush administration to plunge ahead with imposing stiff safety standards. The administration proposes additional study of the plan.

Given the huge cost of implementing the new standards, more study to make sure they’ll actually work is reasonable.
The next sentence made perfectly clear why someone dug an old article out of the files:
The scientists recently boycotted a conference on repetitive motion injuries convened by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They argue that a copious body of work already exists on the subject, and that instead of wasting time and money on another conference, the agency should adopt their recommended regulations.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Read the entire column if you miss that feeling of nausea nostalgia.

Not to be left sputtering impotently in my beard (if I had one), I took advantage of their offer to Comment on This Story:
Regarding your editorial on ergonomic regulations and "sound science." Thank you for saving my fingers from the stress of repeated clicking by reprinting the propaganda of the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the anti-worker National Coalition on Ergonomics.

The facts, however, are that the National Academy of Sciences study that you misquoted looked at hundreds of authoritative scientific studies and concluded that working conditions cause musculoskeletal disorders and that ergonomic interventions can prevent them. The fact is that there is more good science on ergonomics than almost any other workplace hazard. And if you don't believe the science, go to any nursing home or chicken processing plant and ask workers about their backs and their wrists and their shoulders. Or better yet, find the people that used to work there, but are not longer able to because their disabled. It shouldn't be hard to find them. Over a million and a half workers lose time from musculoskeletal disorders every year

So please stop repeating the propaganda and start looking at the science and at the facts. It's the least you owe your readers.
That'll make 'em think twice.

You too can Comment on the Story, but I wouldn't rush. Given the obvious source of this column, I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing facsimiles sprouting up all over the country.

Maybe we should be writing our own instead of commenting on theirs.