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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
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View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentClaims of workers in cases of employers' insolvency
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View the documentComputers, use of
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Computers, use of

With the massive introduction of computers or visual display units (VDUs) in the workplace, their use is becoming more and more subject to special rules, collective bargaining, guidelines and decisions on the part of governments and employers' and workers' organizations, as well as manufacturers.

The majority of experts agree that workers' health can be affected by excessive work with computers, particularly if the equipment or the environment are poorly designed. There is no agreement as to whether such effects are unique to work with computers or whether they can be attributed to all intensive work of this nature.

The most widely recognized effects of work involving the use of computers are the direct effects on the eyes; some indirect effects appear to be related to stress. The question of whether exposure to VDUs could cause miscarriages and birth defects is still under discussion, but it seems that the level of radiation emitted is not dangerous. Several governments, employers and trade unions have adopted a cautious approach to the issue by developing agreements on transfers during pregnancy.

The principal measures recommended for the protection of the health of VDU operators are:

• regular breaks (normally 15 minutes every two hours), and maximum working hours with VDUs (generally four hours per day);

• medical examinations (ophthalmic, neurological and orthopaedic) before the assignment; such examinations should be repeated regularly, at least once a year. If after an examination the operator is declared unsuitable for work with VDUs, an equivalent job at the same rate of pay should be offered and the employer may not dismiss the employee for this reason;

• the design of the equipment should conform to the appropriate standards and parameters (national or as defined by collective agreements), including the safety of the electrical system and the power supply, as well as appropriate maintenance (i.e. periodic checks of ionizing and non-ionizing radiations emitted by VDUs);

• the working environment, including desks, chairs, room layout, lighting, climate and other physical factors such as noise, should be organized according to ergonomic criteria;

• computer users should be trained not only in the use of the equipment itself, but also in the implications of its use on health, safety and ergonomics.

Work with computers, especially its more recent forms such as teleworking, is mainly performed by women.

C. 155: Occupational Safety and Health, 1981
R. 164: Occupational Safety and Health, 1981

→ see also Occupational health services

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