It could well be that the empty desk across the office from you
belongs to a travel agent who called in sick with an aching back or
a similar complaint.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
every year 1.8 million workers -- presumably travel retailers among
them -- suffer from musculoskeletal injuries tracing to ergonomic
causes, and 600,000 people miss work because of them.
In an attempt to do something about the problem, OSHA has
proposed federal rules designed to minimize such workplace hazards
and protect the interests of those suffering from covered
While the rules would cost employers $4.2 billion a year to
implement, OSHA said, companies would reap $9 billion a year in
But instead of seeing light at the end of the carpal tunnel,
business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers,
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Small Business United are
seeing red, calling the rules restrictive, ambiguous and far more
costly than OSHA anticipates.
For example, employers would have to provide affected employees
requiring time off with free medical care for work-related
injuries, including 90% of pay and 100% of benefits for up to six
months -- substantially more than state and federal workman's
Critics of the proposals also argue that it would be difficult,
if not impossible, to distinguish between a covered
workplace-related injury and, say, weekend "tennis elbow" or a
backache caused by a lumpy mattress.
In any event, the Labor Department is accepting written comments
on the proposals until Feb. 1, with public hearings scheduled in
Washington Feb.22; in Portland, Ore., March 21, and Chicago, April
We urge concerned members of the trade, owners and employees
alike, to make their views known.