New York County Oks Bill Regulating Use of Vdts / in Private Business

Article excerpt

Over objections from business leaders, Suffolk County, N.Y., has passed a sweeping measure regulating use of video display terminals - VDTs - in private businesses.

If signed by County Executive Patrick G. Halpin, the bill would be the first in the nation to regulate the widely used computer terminals in private businesses, workplace design experts say.

Six states - California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin - and the District of Columbia have mandatory regulations covering state employees who use VDTs.

Halpin has supported the concept of video-display terminal safety in the workplace and while a state assemblyman, he helped write legislation similar to the current bill.

Suffolk lawmakers approved a similar bill last summer, but the acting county executive at the time, Michael A. LoGrande, vetoed it.

Under the county charter, Halpin has 30 days to sign the bill or veto it. It takes a two-thirds vote of the 18 county legislators to override a veto. The measure passed Tuesday, 13 to 2, with 3 abstentions.

``We're obviously very disappointed and will urge Mr. Halpin to veto the bill,'' said Mitchell Pally, director of legislative and economic affairs for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business organization.

The current bill requires companies with 20 or more terminals to provide adjustable furniture, special lighting, detachable keyboards, work breaks and eye care for employees who use VDTs.

The bill applies to companies whose employees use the terminals more than 26 hours a week.

The Suffolk County Health Department would be responsible for enforcing the regulations.

Labor unions, business leaders and workplace experts across the country said the Suffolk bill would serve as a model for other municipalities or states.

``Whether this bill will result in legislation elsewhere is unclear, but it'll rejuvenate a lot of campaigns for VDT standards around the country,'' said Laura Stock, associate director of the Labor Occupational Health Program, an advocacy group in Berkeley, Calif.

At issue is the design of safe and effective workspaces for employees, a science called ergonomics, and who is responsible for that design. …