Two Workplace Problems Get University Attention


In response to growing concern over the health effects of video display terminals. Harvard will this week circulate a set of guidelines regarding VDT purchase and use by hundreds of University workers.

The procedures require that a representative from Harvard's Environmental Health and Safety Division should visit any office contemplating setting up VDTs, and to alter whatever conditions are necessary to insure the health of the users. The policy also states that the University will pay for any eye correction required by workers affected by improper VDT use.

Officials said yesterday that the final version of the rules were adapted after scores of seminars and on-site inspections held since winter.

VDTs have grown increasingly popular nationwide in recent years--from 1 million in 1975 to a projected 10 million in 1985. Harvard officials said they cannot provide exact figures for the University, but estimated that use has increased from a handful a few years ago to about 2000 now.

Along with this sport come increasing concern about the safety of the machines Several workers have complained of visual forms accompanying as well as damage to their reproduce capabilities


Two national studies conducted on the latter complaint concluded that VDTs were not likely to be fault and a National Research Council report concluded last month that the terminals have no permanent effects on vision nor do they as feared cause cataracts.

But observes concede that the new technology is prone to incorrect use, the main problem the Harvard guidelines aim at. Louis J. DiBerardinas, the University's chief industrial hygienist said yesterday that several offices have installed the terminals without concern for glare or the individual user's size Such factors can lead to vision impairment or back pains.

A United Auto Workers survey of 220 Medical Area workers this spring concluded that 58 percent of the workers using VDTs experienced back strain compared with 20 percent of non-users. Officials for the union--which has tried unsuccessfully to unionize Med Area workers--were unavailable for comment.

DiBerardinas said that Harvard has tried to reduce the glare by increasing room lighting or moving terminals away from a windows. To alleviate the placement problems, he has recommended that the VDT's be located at a specific distance from the user's eyes, so that his forearms are parallel to the floor DeBerardinas also suggested occasional breaks in the workday.

In the past three months about 20 sites have been inspected according to an Office on Information Technology official Dr Henry Mosher, charged with eye inspection said he has certified about five cases needing correction because of VDT work.

In addition DiBerardinas has given about one seminar a month to various personnel offices around the University most recently visiting the Kennedy School of government last week