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Tech Time WarpTexting thumb. Mouse shoulder. Computer hunchback. In today’s always-on world, it’s far too easy to overdo your use of technology. You can effortlessly end up on the path toward a repetitive stress injury (RSI). In this edition of Tech Time Warp, we look back at 27 years ago when California became the first state in the U.S. to put a legally enforceable RSI standard on the books.

Effective on July 3, 1997, the ergonomics standard adopted by California’s Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) applied when more than one employee had reported a “repetitive motion injury” (RMI) that was predominantly caused by a repetitive job, process, or operation with “work-related causation” with the preceding 12 months. Reporting employees had to perform the same repetitive task, such as keyboarding, and licensed physicians had to “objectively identify and diagnose” the injuries. Companies with reported work-related RMIs had to conduct worksite evaluations, eliminate hazards, and train employees.

Implementation of the standard was controversial, according to Professional Safety, the journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers. The prevailing thought was as California goes, so goes the nation. Labor organizations were concerned the standard didn’t go far enough, and employers saw the potential for litigation. In October 1997, California’s Superior Court exempted employers with fewer than 10 employees from the standard.

As time passed, it became evident that enforcement of the standard was rare. In March 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that out of California’s estimated 1.1 million employers at the time, only 41 work sites had been investigated, and Cal/OSHA had only issued 73 citations. Public employers, including a state prison and the California Highway Patrol, received the largest penalties.

Did you enjoy this installation of SmarterMSP’s Tech Time Warp? Check out others here.

Photo: Mumemories / Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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