Study Links Computers to Injuries at Newspapers


A team of government and university researchers has concluded that there is a “significant association” between typing at computer keyboards at Newsday and New York Newsday and the incidence of repetitive-strain injuries--widespread occupational illnesses resulting from repeated motions.

The yearlong study of Newsday employees, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the University of Michigan, found no one cause responsible for the injuries. It identified several job-related factors--including workstation design and individual work habits--as potential risks associated with repetitive-strain injuries, or RSI.

In a preliminary report issued earlier this year, NIOSH-Michigan researchers found that 40% of more than 800 employees surveyed reported symptoms of RSI, including pain experienced in hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders or neck.


The study was jointly requested and paid for by Newsday and the Graphics Communication International Union Local 406, which represents about half of Newsday’s and New York Newsday’s 3,100 full-time employees. The study, the first comprehensive survey of RSI in the newspaper industry, concluded that computer-terminal use at a newspaper office presented “a hazard” to workers’ health.

The Newsday study found that reporters had twice as many RSI cases as other groups of employees who work at computer terminals, and that those who typed faster, spent longer periods of time typing and took fewer work breaks were more likely to get injured.

Researchers said some cramped workstations--including video-display terminals, desks, chairs and other equipment--could contribute to RSI by constraining worker postures for long periods of typing.

“But if you just concentrate on workstations and equipment, you will be disappointed (in solving RSI problems),” said Barbara Silverstein, the study’s principal investigator from Michigan. “You have to deal with the pace and way work is organized.”

RSI is now the leading cause of occupational illness in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1988, 115,400 cases of RSI were reported nationwide, representing 48% of all workplace illnesses. Such injuries also have been widespread in assembly-line jobs.

Newsday has implemented several of the study’s recommendations, said Assistant Managing Editor Robert Keane, including creation of a labor-management committee for editorial workers and recently launched a training program, starting with managers and new workers, Keane said.


Newsday is owned by Times Mirror Co., which also owns The Times.