Feb 11, 1998 letter to California Energy Commission urging a state-wide "public awareness campaign" to promote more telecommuting

Date: Wed, 11 Fob 1998 08:10:04 -0800
To: kchanabo@energy.state.cay.us
From: Rick Johnson <rijohnso>
Subject: Telecommuting: to save lives and improve health
[Edited 13 Feb 1998 to remove two minor typos.]
Ms. Chan-Abo - please provide this message to Mr. Reese and other members
of the Commission. Thank you very much. -Rick Johnson-
TO: William J. Reese, Chair, California Energy Commission [1]
Dear Mr. Reese,
I recently sent a letter to Governor Wilson requesting help on an important
matter (see email below). In light of your testimony on January 28 before
the Appropriations Committee [2], I believe the Commission should consider
becoming the strong proponent for "telecommuting safety and health" in the
state of California.
You testified "the elements of a National Energy Strategy should include:
national security considerations; economic development and growth; public
health and safety; and, environmental protection."
Telecommuting directly addresses at least three of your four strategic
1) Telecommuting increases productivity and reduces business costs,
supporting economic development and growth, while conserving our
energy resources;
2) Telecommuting reduces hazards to workers, the general public,
families, children, and communities, while offering many health
benefits; and
3) Telecommuting significantly reduces pollution, offering a simple
and inexpensive means to provide environmental protection.
If you have not done so already, I urge you to establish a public awareness
campaign for telecommuting [3], similar to what you have established for
speed reduction ("Green Speed"). You acknowledged telecommuting in your
testimony as one of several "Alternative Work Arrangements". In my opinion
a campaign is desperately and immediately needed to transform that well
deserved acknowledgement into aggressive and effective action.
The material in the email below provides the newly-discovered "safety and
health" basis for taking the urgent action by the Commission of
establishing a new public awareness campaign. As I see it, Mr. Reese, you
have a great opportunity to satisfy your energy goals by strongly
advocating telecommuting throughout the state's public and private sectors,
while, at the same time, becoming a champion for worker and public
protection. There is a nearly perfect synergy between the pursuit of your
proposed energy strategy and TSHI's mission to save lives, reduce injuries,
and improve the health of people everywhere.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. If I can be of any
assistance, please let me know.
-Rick Johnson, Founder, Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)-
--- Notes ------------------>
1: Other Energy Commission staff have been included on Bcc
distribution for their information.
2: See http://www.energy.cay.gov/papers/98-01-28_keese.html
3: Coordinating with DPA and DGS, which have been encouraging
telecommuting very well to CA State employees. Note: it is
very important that *all* organizations, public *and* private
allow, facilitate, and encourage telecommuting for their employees.
(For State's existing telecommuting promotion work see:
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 1998 00:02:23 -0800
To: pete.wilson@ca.gov, gray.davis@ltg.ca.gov
From: Rick Johnson <rijohnso>
Subject: Telecommuting: to save lives and improve health
Cc: ohchief@ts1.teale.ca.gov, piu@hdcdojnet.state.ca.us, bjones@ss.ca.gov,
deastin@cde.ca.gov, jcallaha@os.dhhs.gov, dgarriso@osaspe.dhhs.gov,
calyd@geocities.com, greens@igc.org, chair@ca.lp.org, cyr@lightspeed.net,
senator@boxer.senate.gov, senator@feinstein.senate.gov
Dear Governor Wilson and Lt. Governor Davis,*
Because you care about improving the safety and health of all Californians,
I urge you to strongly encourage more telecommuting across the state, as
soon as possible.
Improving productivity, conserving energy, protecting the environment,
enhancing family values - those are benefits you already know telecommuting
provides. However, most of the safety and health benefits of telecommuting
have been overlooked until just recently, and they are very important.
Joe Dear, a former federal OSHA Assistant Secretary, said recently in a
speech about worker safety using "Voluntary Protection Programs" (VPP):
"All we're really talking about is making sure that when a man
or woman leaves home in the morning and goes to work that they will
come home at the end of the day with their bodies unharmed, their
souls intact, and their dignity uncompromised."
People like Mr. Dear, who are sincerely interested in protecting workers,
should also be looking at telecommuting (in addition to VPP) as a means of
improving safety. Telecommuting is 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. At the end of the day, their
bodies will be unharmed, and they will be a great deal healthier.
Please read the information below and inform all employers, soon, about the
safety and health benefits of telecommuting. California has had a good
telecommuting program underway for several years. We ask that you now
provide more focus on the new safety and health aspects of telecommuting.
Your action is very important - in fact, it's a matter of life and death.
Rick Johnson, Founder and Director
Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)
*[Note about the email distribution: this message is sent to selected
faculty, students, local government officials and workers, and some other
people (via "Bcc"), because we believe they need to know more about this
issue, as well.]
The Newly-Discovered Benefits of Telecommuting: Improved Safety & Health
Rick Johnson
February 7, 1998
We recently have begun informing United States Governors and their citizens
about the existence of the Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)
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
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
==> 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 less crowded and 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 optics 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
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 site 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
people to unnecessary commuting risks. (See Hanford website at
In northern New Mexico, at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the
motto is "Science Serving Society," Lab managers still do not have a policy
which allows and encourages telecommuting, even though the technology to do
so has existed for over ten years (see LANL website at
http://www.lanl.gov/.) Even though the Federal government has mandated
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! Many people are forced to commute
unnecessarily to and from work from surrounding communities on very
hazardous roads that seem to be constantly under construction. Many of
those same people 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
At TSHI we are attempting to do our part to encourage employers and
government leaders to always keep safety and health 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," and thus 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 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 new SAFETY and
HEALTH 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
For more information on telecommuting safety and health please visit the
recently-updated Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (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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