HIGHTOWER: Preventing On-the-Job Pain

Ever had back pain? How about tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or some other chronic ailment that stabs you like an ice pick and can cripple you? It's more than a pain—it's debilitating and can force you out of your job.

A hundred million American workers perform repetitive functions that cause these injuries, and six hundred thousand a year have to miss work because of the heavy lifting, assembly-line repetition, constant typing, and other tasks that they do. Day-by-day, year-by-year, these tasks tear at their backs, wrists, elbows, muscles, and tendons, leading to chronic, debilitating pain. They pay the price financially, too, in massive medical bills and lost income.

Late last year though, the Labor Department finally took action to mitigate this physical and economic pain. After studying the matter for ten years, OSHA issued standards to protect working families from some of these job-releated injuries. The new rules range from merely providing information so employees can know about these injuries to requiring companies to provide better designed tools and workstations to prevent the injuries in the first place.

But, oh, the squealing from corporate executives and their puppets in congress! "We can't bear the cost," they wailed—never mind that many firms here and abroad already do this, and that industry would actually save some $9 billion a year because of reduced worker's comp costs and from increased productivity. Stephen Bokat of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, even asserted that the problem doesn't exist: "We don't think there is any scientific basis to say how many repetitions are too many, how much weight is too much," he sniffed. Really, Tiger? How much heavy lifting do you do each day, not counting your tongue?

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Workplace injuries are a real cost of doing business, and it shouldn't be put on the broken backs of injured workers. Instead of making them pay with pain and medical bills, let's do al we can to stop hurting people on the job.

Jim Hightower's lastest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Tovte They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available in stores everywhere.

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