How To Fight Keyboard Strain? Kill The Messages

Cepetitive strain injury (RSI) is a mysterious syndrome. It can cripple the hands, wrists, and forearms of some people who type a lot, yet leave others unscathed. Ergonomists advise employers to fight RSI by putting in adjustable chairs, desks, and keyboards and by giving typists frequent breaks. Newsday, a Times Mirror Co. newspaper in Melville, N. Y., has been plagued with 150 cases of RSI among its staff. To cut down on typing, Newsday reprogrammed its computer system so that reporters could receive electronic mail from editors but not send it.

The ban has not been popular, especially among reporters in outlying bureaus, who are now forced to telephone and leave messages instead. "I hate it," says one. "I have to admit I'm using fewer keystrokes, but I don't think it's worth the inconvenience." Times Mirror's flagship paper, The Los Angeles Times, hasn't banned e-mail, because reporters resisted the idea, says Kathi Barr, the Times's ergonomics specialist. However, she says the paper is taking a new look at RSI, following a visit by consultants from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, and she says she can't rule out an e-mail ban.

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