“California’s well-publicized budget crisis is ratcheting up tensions for employees working at every level in the public sector,” says LIUNA Local 777 Business Manager Fred Lowe. “Inner-office stress is high, and now, more than ever, our members need some relief.”
Local 777 is LIUNA’s largest all-public employee Local, with just over 8000 members. A few years ago, the Riverside County Courts System with its 615 union members became participatory to the LHSFNA.
Responding to their current needs, LHSFNA Behavioral Health Care Coordinator Jamie Becker conducted a series of lunch-time or after-work stress management workshops at the Courts in September. Additional workshops are set for later this fall. Also, office ergonomic training will be scheduled for early next year.
“The health and safety concerns of public employee office workers,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan, “differ from most of our members, who are construction workers. Through the Fund, we’re making a special effort to examine these concerns and provide support that addresses their particular needs.”
Last year, before the budget crisis hit the state, LHSFNA staff surveyed the Riverside Superior Court employees.
“The survey showed that 40 percent of the workers had experienced a work-related injury or illness, and 24 percent had a non-work-related injury or illness that was aggravated by work tasks,” says Walter Jones, LHSFNA’s Senior Safety and Health Specialist. “The workers experienced neck/shoulder problems, eyestrain, hand/wrist problems, back pain and headaches on almost a monthly basis. Only 50 percent went to a health care professional, but 35 percent missed work as a result of their problems.”
The survey indicated that most workers spend the majority of their time using a computer. When asked what changes they would make to the workplace, the overwhelming majority said they would redesign their workstation.
In response to the survey, the LHSFNA planned a two-stage ergonomic intervention for Local 777. The first part, recently completed, was the compilation of effective ergonomic guidelines for computer workstations. Travis Parsons, LHSFNA Safety and Health Specialist, researched and prepared a booklet, Computers and Your Health, that examines the health risks of computer work and offers practical guidance to limit the dangers. That publication is now available.
In the second stage, staff from the LHSFNA OSH Division will conduct a training session with interested Local 777 workers to review the insights of the new publication and plan next steps toward the redesign of their workstations. That training will be planned and conducted after the stress management classes are completed.