Saturday, August 19, 2006

Repetitive stress injuries fall through legal gaps

How some companies are handling the law ...

"Tiffany Friesen, 20, loved how strong she felt doing "man's work" at her job as a dockworker last year for Watkins Motor Lines. She never dreamed she'd wind up debilitated, barely able to type or lift a stack of papers.

The West Linn resident would unload hundreds of boxes a day, each filled with as much as 50 pounds of Nike products. After several months of repeating the same motions, she developed tendinitis in her right wrist and received a diagnosis of 70 percent permanent disability. Her wrist stayed swollen to twice its normal size for more than five months.

Friesen received a financial settlement from her company, but she says it doesn't make up for not having a body that works.

... In 2001, President Bush repealed a law passed in the waning days of the Clinton administration that would have required new workplace rules to combat repetitive stress injuries. Instead, the current administration is developing industry-specific guidelines. In an effort to save businesses money, the guidelines are voluntary.

This means that most businesses aren't doing anything to mitigate for ergonomic injuries, says Anne Shihadeh, president of ErgoPro Consulting, who lives in Tigard.

"Ninety percent of employers (in the southwest suburbs) would all say, 'Well, we have a catalog of office products that we allow people to buy out of, and there's a label on our chairs that says ergonomic.' There is absolutely more that should be done," says Shihadeh, who ran the city of Portland's award-winning ergonomics program. "What's the No. 2 reason people miss work in this country? Back pain. Redesigning plants and offices isn't a waste of money; it keeps people from missing work."   (Continued via Oregon Live)   [Ergonomics Resources]

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