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TUC health and safety officer, Owen Tudor
"We have used this technique to identify RSI"
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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
Workers urged to monitor illness

By industry correspondent Stephen Evans

Britain's 20 million workers are being urged to examine their own bodies for signs of industrial illness.

The Trades Union Congress wants employees to do what it calls "body mapping" so that patterns of ill health can be discovered across workplaces.

Under the scheme, people would identify aches and pains on an outline map of their bodies and then compare them with those of their colleagues to see if there are similarities.

The union's argument is that many forms of industrial illness took decades to be recognised as such, so gathering evidence of links between particular ailments and particular workplaces will speed that process.

The head of the TUC, John Monks, denies that he is "scaremongering".

TUC head John Monks
John Monks: Denies 'scare-mongering'
"It's about finding out what's hurting and killing people at work and stopping it before more lives are needlessly put in danger," he said.

Mr Monks said unions had identified most of the industrial diseases despite the resistance of employers.

Compensation claims

Pneumoconiosis in miners, stress, industrial deafness, vibration white finger and Repetitive Strain Injury are all now recognised and have led to sufferers gaining compensation.

Some employers fear, though, that publicity for an ailment prompts people to think they have got it.

Some doctors believe that some apparent sufferers of Repetitive Strain Injury, for example, only imagine it.

There is no doubt that RSI does exist - workers who press keyboards many times a second for hours on end, for example, get a swelling in their fore-arms and the injury and pain is obvious.

But other forms of RSI where there are no visible signs and where the employee does not hit the keyboard as frequently are not so clear.

Some doctors allege in these cases that publicity prompts people to feel pain they had not noticed before.

But the TUC believes that if anything industrial injury is under-recognised.

It says it has worked for decades to convince employers that work can make employees ill - asbestos was recognised as poisonous a century before it was banned.

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See also:

09 Jun 00 | UK
Busting the unions
12 Aug 00 | Health
Lefty workers 'at risk of injury'
22 Nov 99 | Americas
Employers' stress over injury laws
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