or distribute this activity. Students may work independently or
Many of the jobs requiring long
hours nowadays are in the computer industry. Besides the obvious
side effect of sleep deprivation from overworking, what are some
other health problems associated with the boom in computer based
some research to find out the kinds of health problems that commonly
result from working with computers. What are the symptoms? What
are the apparent causes? You may want to look particularly at
problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, exposure to radiation, and
out how employees and employers are dealing with these conditions.
You may want to ask some working adults or people in the health
professions you know to give their opinions. You might ask: Are
there ways to prevent these conditions from developing? How can
the negative effects be lessened?
Discuss this question with
your classmates: Do you think there will be long-term health consequences
for large numbers of workers because of the widespread use of
computers? Why or why not?
Make a graphic display that illustrates
both the health problems associated with computers, and possible
solutions or ways to prevent these problems. Display your chart
in the classroom.
can choose whether to work overtime, but some are required by their
contracts to work as much overtime as their employer requires. For
example, in order to get a job with a utility company, a worker
may have to agree to work very long shifts if a storm causes widespread
power outages. In certain cases, working overtime can cause health
problems. In rare cases, it may even cause death, as in the case
of Brent Churchill, a lineman in Maine who died on the job after
working more than 24 hours straight:
In his last two and a half days of life,
Brent Churchill slept a total of five hours. The rest of the time
he was working. Churchill, a lineman on call one stormy weekend
for Central Maine Power, worked two back-to-back shifts on Friday,
went to bed at 10:30 p.m., was called back at 1 a.m. Saturday, caught
a quick nap around dawn and went back to his job clambering up and
down poles for almost 24 hours straight. Taking a break for breakfast
on Sunday morning, he got yet another call. At about noon, he climbed
a 30-foot pole, hooked on his safety straps and reached for a 7,200-volt
cable without first putting on his insulating gloves. There was
a flash, and then Churchill hung motionless by his straps.
Currently some lawmakers are considering
legislation that would cap the amount of mandatory overtime allowed
in their states.
Gather information to help you argue
for or against limiting mandatory overtime. Consider these questions:
Why might a worker want mandatory overtime to be limited? What
health and safety considerations might he or she cite to support
might the executive of an organization say which sometimes has
sudden needs for lots more skilled help than normal?
precautions could employees and their employers take to make sure
no one falls asleep on the job?
if an organization does work that is important to the well-being
of the public; for example, they operate hospitals or supply gas
and electricity? Should they be exempted from legislation limiting
After you complete your research, take
a position on forced overtime. Write one of your state representatives
to let him or her know how you feel, why you feel this way, and what
you think should be done.