Feb 18, 1998 letter to Colorado Governor Romer urging state-wide "public awareness campaign" to promote telecommuting

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 06:15:02 -0800
To: romer@governor.state.co.us
From: Rick Johnson
Subject: Telecommuting: to save lives and improve health
Cc: info@dot.state.co.us, sos.admin1@state.co.us, attorney.general@state.co.us, owens@wg.capcon.com, state.board@cde.state.co.us, cche@state.co.us, comments.cdphe@state.co.us, apcd@state.co.us, pvb@cati.org, szax@thezenith.com, cberry@capcon.com, drcog@iex.net, cnews@naco.org, dencc@infodenver.denver.co.us,
osi@infodenver.denver.co.us, dems@colorado.edu, sdj@amigo.net, webmngr@i2i.org, gopelpaso@aol.com, administrator@campbell.senate.gov, senator_allard@exchange.senate.gov, degette@mail.house.gov,
david.skaggs@mail.house.gov, rep.schaffer@mail.house.gov, rep.dan.schaefer@mail.house.gov
Dear Governor Romer, [1]
Because I know you care deeply for the safety and health of all people in Colorado, I urge you to strongly promote more widespread use of telecommuting, as soon as possible.
You said in your January 8th "State of the State" speech [2]:
"Where once our economy moved at the speed of a horse, a train,
a car and then an airplane, today, our economy moves at the speed
of an idea."
And so it should. Commuting by car or any other vehicle kills and injures human beings.
While cars (as well as trains, trucks, and planes) need to be used for certain very important transportation purposes, it is much safer and healthier to people, families, children, and communities for our economy to move at the speed of an idea - by telecommuting. People, like you, who want to protect workers and the public, need to look very seriously at telecommuting as the best transport "vehicle" available today, tomorrow, and well into the 21st century.
Telecommuting is very easy to implement and will go a long way toward providing the assurance of worker safety and health that employers want. Telecommuting will keep people out of harms way going to work and protect them on their way home, and at the end of the day, many more men, women, and children will be safe. And more people will be healthier, too, as more workers are allowed to telecommute.
Improving productivity, conserving energy, protecting the environment, enhancing family values - these are the benefits people throughout the world already know telecommuting provides. However, safety and health benefits of telecommuting have been overlooked until very recently, and those benefits are extremely important.
Lieutenant Governor Schoettler's "Telecommunications Report" [3] acknowledges the importance of telecommuting, specifically:
"Telecommuting challenges the old way of doing things. As some of our
policy makers continue to plod into familiar solutions, searching for
millions of dollars to build more lanes on the state highways for more
cars that poison our air, others are recognizing that the new
technologies allow for unprecedented answers to our problems."
Lt. Schoettler is right.
You declared in your speech, Governor, that "Colorado is not just the best place to work, it's the best place to live." That declaration will become especially true, once people are protected from the deaths, injuries, and poor health occurring every day as a result of unnecessary commutes.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) [4] and City of Boulder [5] are examples of two organizations that have taken significant steps to promote alternative transportation for the sake of saving energy, preventing pollution, and relieving traffic congestion. I ask, now, that you establish a major aggressive state-wide public information campaign informing all Colorado employers and workers about the newly identified safety and health aspects of telecommuting. Your action is very important - in fact, it is a matter of life and death.
Please read the attachment below for more information, and if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.
Rick Johnson, Founder and Director
Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)
----- notes ------------------>
1. About email distribution: message is being sent to other selected
people (via "Bcc"), because we believe they need to know about this
new safety and health issue, as well.
2. From your speech at http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/1998sos.htm.
3. From report at http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/ltgov/ltgov_telecomm.html.
4. Ride Arrangers site is at http://www.drcog.org/ridearrangers/index.html.
5. GO Boulder site is at http://bcn.boulder.co.us/boulder/go-boulder/.
The Newly-Discovered Benefits of Telecommuting: Improved Safety & Health
Rick Johnson
February 17, 1998
We recently have begun informing United States Governors and their citizens about the existence of the Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI) website [click here].
TSHI is a non-profit organization with the mission of educating people about and advocating the use of telecommuting, so people everywhere can take advantage of two important telecommuting benefits: improved safety and improved health.
TSHI seeks to identify new benefits of telecommuting and, as safety and health benefits are discovered, to keep people informed.
There are significant safety benefits to telecommuting. A few examples are:
==> reduced risk of traffic-related injury and death to school children,
pedestrians, highway workers, and other traditional commuters;
==> reduced risk to children by allowing them to remain at home with
their primary care-givers rather than housed in daycare centers; and
==> reduced impact of terrorist bombings or bomb threats, because fewer
employees (and their children) are in a centralized location.
The reduced risk of death or injury (by crashes, "road rage", etc.) to commuters on the highways is a very important safety benefit of telecommuting. Approximately 40,000 people die in crashes every year in the US, many hundreds of thousands more are injured, and billions of dollars worth of property is damaged. Road rage is becoming more widespread every year as commuters become more and more intolerent of increased and unnecessary traffic (see recent Time magazine article at http://pathfinder.com/time/magazine/1998/dom/980112/society.road_rage_.html).
There are many people commuting home from work suffering from fatigue, after they had to prepare for work, commute to work, and perform their work for many hours away from their homes. These people represent an unnecessary hazard to other people who *must* use the highways.
Telecommuting reduces traffic and the resulting hazards that unnecessary traffic causes. There are many "must-do" commuters who absolutely have to travel, because they do work that is "hands on", or they are paramedics, fire fighters, police, emergency medical technicians, transport workers, tourists, etc.
If roads become less crowded, because more people telecommute, the "must-do" commuters will be able to more easily and more safely reach their destinations. Also, if roads become less crowded, less roads will need to be built, and existing roads and bridges will last longer. Existing roads will become safer, too, as some of the inevitable savings can be spent on improved road maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. There is also the issue of "economic equalization" of car safety - telecommuting especially helps the poorer workers, who may not yet be able to afford as good, as safe, and as well maintained an automobile, as wealthier workers.
There are significant health benefits to telecommuting, as well. Examples include:
==> reduced spread of communicable diseases (colds, flu, etc.);
==> reduction in stress-related illnesses;
==> reduced production of pollutants that lead to increased health
==> continuous access to homes during the day when there are natural
disasters or major storms, allowing homeowners the opportunity to
prevent property damage that could cause stress-related and other
types of health problems;
==> improved access to individual health needs (medications,
facilities, etc.) for persons with existing health problems
or disabilities; and
==> the potential for increased care of children in their *own* homes
by their own parent or parents.
People who can stay home and work rather than bringing their desease (a cold, for example) into the office, are preventing diseases from spreading to other coworkers (and their coworkers' families). Conversely, by staying home, they are not becoming infected by communicable diseases from coworkers, who decide to bring them into the office. The commute, itself, is enough to cause stress-related illnesses for many people, and sometimes just the distance and time involved in commuting to and from work can cause unnecessary physical discomfort for some people. Telecommuting can eliminate the stress and discomfort of the commute.
Because they are not producing as much pollution by commuting every day back and forth to the office, telecommuters are improving not only the quality of the air *they* breathe, but the air that *everyone* breathes. Many people do not have the access they need to their medications during commutes or during the time they spend on their job sites. Many people also require or desire special equipment and facilities in order to address a variety of health conditions or physical limitations. Telecommuting accommodates the needs of people who would prefer to be closer to their homes, where they can better access their own familiar facilities and living environment.
Telecommuting also allows parents to care for their children in their own homes, and in many instances could reduce or remove the need for any child care outside the home. The impact of telecommuting on child care cannot be overemphasized. Telecommuting improves the quality of care, not only for telecommuters, who can have their children home, but also for other workers who cannot telecommute. Those other workers will have access to child care facilities that are less crowded and can provide better services, because they will be better staffed.
Many people could do some or all of their work from home, today, especially now that computers are becoming cheaper, and shared residential data/fax/phone lines are becoming easily available with higher capacity fiber optic loops. If a person's job is not one they could do from home (either full or part time), they are *still* impacted by those people who could be telecommuting, if only they were allowed to. Many of us are placed at an unnecessary risk, due to the additional traffic these potential telecommuters provide.
Not every employee today could do some or all of their work from home, of course. It is the choice to choose telecommuting that TSHI is advocating. We realize a change to the American corporate culture is needed. Certainly there are managers and workers who have reservations about telecommuting, saying "I just like to have a face-to-face talk sometimes." These reservations are understandable. However, even a reduction in the trips to and from work would help. If people were allowed to work just part of the time from their homes, there would be an increase in safety and health to workers and the public. In the future, cheaper and better televideo technology will exist that allows for that "face time" that some people want, without the need for unnecessary and unsafe travel to and from a work location to get it.
Most corporations and governments care about economics, energy, environment, family, safety, and health. Telecommuting will continue to provide large financial benefits (increased productivity, reduction of cost for work space, reduced insurance premiums, reduced accident losses, etc.), while conserving our precious energy resources. Telecommuting will help to protect our environment (reduced highway construction, cleaner air, etc.), while allowing people to be home with family and community. And because corporate and government managers should care foremost about the safety and health of their workers, as well as the general public, they should allow as many of their employees to telecommute as possible.
[Note: Similar safety and health benefits will also be obtained, if rather than using air travel, buses, trains, motorcycles, bicycles, or other forms of transportation, more people telecommuted.]
If people do not know about the safety and health benefits of telecommuting, they will not act to reap those benefits. And people need to know soon, because action is required. Action is required now, because people are losing their lives and being injured every day, only because managers do not yet know about the safety and health benefits of telecommuting.
The desire and the need to telecommute is spreading. Corporations and government agencies are being urged to look into the feasibility of telecommuting for their organizations. But some organizations may need a little "push" in order to change. Why do they need a little push? Because some organizations are still doing their business in a manner that is adverse to worker and public safety.
For example, we heard recently that because of cost-cutting measures, the managers at DOE's Hanford nuclear reservation in eastern Washington state are becoming more reluctant to issue "two hour delays" when road conditions are bad due to poor weather (ice, snow, etc.). This will undoubtedly result in more injuries and add to the already stressful working conditions that exist in the Tri-Cities area. And even though the Hanford motto is "Environmental Excellence," managers there do not encourage telecommuting. By not encouraging telecommuting employers are unnecessarily polluting the environment and the lungs of its workers and neighbors while exposing tens of thousands of people to unnecessary commuting risks. (See Hanford website at http://www.hanford.gov/.)
In northern New Mexico, at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the motto is "Science Serving Society," Lab management still does not have a policy which allows and encourages their employees to telecommute, even though the technology to do so has existed for over 10 years (see LANL website at http://www.lanl.gov/.) Even though the Federal government has requested that a percentage of its employees telecommute by the year 2000, the DOE allows government contractors, like LANL, to ignore the telcommuting needs of their workers and their communities! All their employees are still being forced to commute unnecessarily to and from work from surrounding communities on very hazardous roads, constantly under construction. Many of those employees could easily be doing their work from the comfort, safety, and security of their own homes, rather than endangering their lives (and those of others) by driving back and forth every day to the laboratory.
At TSHI we are attempting to do our part to encourage employers and government leaders to keep safety and health always as their *top* priority. We are helping by discovering new benefits for telecommuting, publishing our website, and spreading the word. We will also begin to identify organizations that are "telecommuting friendly," and thus are saving money, conserving energy, preserving the environment, enhancing family values, and protecting the public and their workers. If we do not see a major change in management attitude at other organizations, soon, we will also begin to identify those employers (such as the ones mentioned above) that are "telecommuting unfriendly." Those organizations are inflicting a very large measure of misery and suffering upon their workers and the communities where they do business.
We encourage you and other people you share this information with to visit the TSHI website periodically and carefully consider our new safety and health perspective. We hope, too, that other government leaders will help us get our message across, so that corporate and government management philosophies will begin to change!
Telecommuting quite possibly is the most simple, inexpensive, and effective means available today to save lives and improve the health of people everywhere.
For more information on telecommuting safety and health please visit the TSHI website at:
===> [click here]
-Rick Johnson, Founder and Director
Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)
c/o HC73 - 953 Buchanan Rd.
Burns, OR 97720
TSHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to
saving lives, reducing injuries and improving health
by advocating increased use of telecommuting.

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