US States responding to TSHBI suggestion that telecommuting can improve safety and health

(Email from Wyoming)

Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 09:31:14 -0700
From: [snip]
Cc: [snip]
Subject: Telecommuting
Response to Mr. Rick Johnson, regarding Telecommuting: to save lives...
Your email message to Governor Geringer regarding Telecommuting to save lives and improve health was forwarded to me for response. For the past year, development of such a program for State of Wyoming employees has been underway. Telework Wyoming, the name given Wyoming's program, will be implemented later this year. You are well aware that the merits of telecommuting are numerous. We in Wyoming realize that great untapped human resource lies within many of our smaller rural communities and more remote areas within the state. Through use of today's technology, the Wyoming workplace community is becoming increasingly accessible. Health and safety concerns are but two more of the many positive reasons for utilization of such a program. Thank you for your email.
Sincerely, Kathi Tarantola Governor s Fellowship Program

Email message sent 10:47 PM 3/4/98 -0800 to TSHBI Supporters)
>It's not a big list, but it has grown fast... Alaska, Arizona, California,
>Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South
>Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin are
>states that listened, after we suggested to their government leaders that
>*telecommuting* could improve safety and health.
>Now that these leaders know about our new safety and health concerns, they
>can take action to protect people in their states, improving the "quality
>of life" for workers, families, and communities.
>We thank the people from the counties, cities, and towns of these 18
>states, who have contacted us. We are grateful, also, to many other folks
>across America and around the world. Some of you are on distribution for
>this message. You have paused to listen, taken time to reflect, and in
>many cases you extended a helping hand. Thank you very much for your
>continued interest and support.
>Best regards, -Rick Johnson, TSHI-
>PS: We are very pleased that Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson took time
>this morning to communicate with us about telecommuting (see email below).
>Our message of concern will be going out to other states, as well, in the
>coming months.
>>Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 08:14:51 -0800
>>To: [snip]
>>From: Rick Johnson <>
>>Subject: Appreciation + offer help on Worker Comp [RE: Telecommuting..]
>>Governor Thompson (and staff):
>>Your response to our letter about telecommuting safety and health
>>demonstrates you care about people in Wisconsin (and people everywhere for
>>that matter).
>>There must be solutions to the Workers' Comp. issue, and I would be
>>honored to provide some ideas. Please direct me to the person you'd like
>>me to communicate with, if you care for my assistance.
>>Kindest regards, -Rick Johnson, Founder, TSHI-
>>>From: [snip]
>>>To: "EMX -rijohnso (052)rijohnso(a)" <>
>>>Subject: RE: Telecommuting: to save lives and imp
>>>Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 09:50:33 -0600
>>>Mime-Version: 1.0
>>>Thank you for your e-mail concerning telecommuting. I appreciate the time
>>>you took to write.
>>>Telecommuting is an intriguing option to traditional commuting. For those
>>>jobs that are amenable, telecommuting may offer savings to both employers and
>>>employees, as well as yield productivity gains. However, telecommuting
>>>presents some potential problems with regard to workers' compensation in
>>>Wisconsin. No longer would there be one workplace that could be easily
>>>risk-rated, where workplace behaviors could be monitored and safe work habits
>>>could be encouraged. This is something our Workers' Compensation Division
>>>has been studying on a long-term basis and findings are inconclusive.
>>>I will keep your views in mind as issues related to telecommuting are raised
>>>within state government. Again, thank you for contacting my office.
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>From: rijohnso
>>>Sent: Sunday, January 25, 1998 10:38 AM
>>>To: WisGov; Webmaster, SECYWEB; Bugher, Mark; Lightbourn, George; Seemeyer,
>>>Linda; wisgov
>>>Cc: [snip]
>>>Subject: Telecommuting: to save lives and improve
>>>Dear Governor Thompson,*
>>>The purpose of this letter is to ask that you strongly encourage more
>>>telecommuting in Wisconsin, because telecommuting will improve everyone's
>>>safety and health.
>>>Conserving energy, protecting the environment, enhancing family values -
>>>these are benefits we already know telecommuting provides. However, the
>>>safety and health benefits of telecommuting are being overlooked - and they
>>>are very important.
>>>Mr. Joe Dear (a former federal OSHA Assistant Secretary) was reported to
>>>have said recently in his speech about worker safety:
>>> "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."
>>>Telecommuting will go a long ways toward providing this assurance of worker
>>>safety that employers should be looking for. 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, not only will their bodies be unharmed, their
>>>bodies will be much healthier, too.
>>>Please read the additional information provided below and support our
>>>effort to promote and educate people about the safety and health benefits
>>>of telecommuting. Your interest is very important - it's a matter of life
>>>and death for the people of Wisconsin.
>>>Rick Johnson, Founder and Director
>>>Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI)
>>> ------------------------------------
>>>*[Note about the email distribution: this message is sent to selected
>>>faculty and students at universities, and some other people in your state
>>>(via "Bcc"), because we believe they will also benefit from learning about
>>>this new issue.]
>>> The Newly-Discovered Benefits of Telecommuting: Improved Safety & Health
>>> Rick Johnson
>>> January 24, 1998
>>>We recently have begun telling US state government leaders and their
>>>citizens about the existence of the Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute
>>>(TSHI) website,
>>>TSHI is a new non-profit organization with the mission of educating people
>>>about and advocating the use of telecommuting to take advantage of two
>>>newly-recognized and important benefits: improved safety and improved
>>>TSHI attempts to identify the safety and health benefits of telecommuting
>>>and, as more benefits emerge, 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, 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 (see recent Time magazine article at
>>>Telecommuting reduces traffic and the resulting hazards that unnecessary
>>>traffic causes. There are many commuters who absolutely must travel,
>>>because they do something that is "hands on," paramedics, fire fighters,
>>>police, other emergency personnel, truckers, 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 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 are also significant health benefits to telecommuting. Examples
>>> ==> reduced spread of communicable diseases (colds, flu, etc.);
>>> ==> reduction in stress-related illnesses;
>>> ==> reduced production of pollutants that lead to increased 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 their disease from
>>>spreading to other coworkers (and their coworkers' families). Conversely,
>>>by staying home, they aren't picking up 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.
>>>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
>>> 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 that exists today to save lives and improve the health of people
>>>For more information on telecommuting safety and health please visit the
>>>Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI) website at:
>>>(...we will be updating it again, soon)
>-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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