, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 57–79 | Cite as

The keyboard blues: Modern technology and the rights and risks of people at work

  • Patricia Shipley


Health and safety at work is a moral imperative, but the debates emphasise only the economic and legal sides. Drawing on case material from working with VDUs and other forms of modern technology it is shown that loss of control over their immediate work processes can be stressful and potentially harmful to responsible operators. Autonomy and freedom in work process control enhances the power that workers have to protect their health. It is suggested that unquestioned divisive and dualistic practices at workplaces are a potent and unnecessary reason for this problem.


Health and safety rights at work Health and safety risks UK occupational health provisions VDUs Modern technology Paced work Repetitive strain injury Stress Coping Control Division of labour Dualism Interpersonal relations Ethical imperative 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Accident Investigation Board Aircraft Report 9/82.On the Collision in the Zagreb Area Yugoslavia, between British Airways Trident G-AWZT and Index Adria DC-9 Yu-AJR on 10 September 1976, H.M.S.O. London.Google Scholar
  2. Air Safety Review. (1983).Air Safety Review (No. 7). July. British Airways. London.Google Scholar
  3. Babb, P. and P. Shipley. (1994). A Study of Stress in Telephone Switchboard Operation. Paper submitted toApplied Ergonomics.Google Scholar
  4. Branton, P. and P. Shipley. (1986). VDU Stress: is Houston Man Addicted bored or mystic? In Knave, B. and P. Widebæck. (eds.)Proceedings of International Scientific Conference on Work with Display Units. Stockholm. Sweden.Google Scholar
  5. Camden & Islington Occupational Health Project. (1994).Occupational Health News. 3. Autumn. C&IOHP. London.Google Scholar
  6. Carter, J. B., and E.W. Banister. (1994). Muskulo-skeletal Problems in VDT Work: a Review.Ergonomics. 37 (10). 1623–1648.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, H. (1993).The Cure For all Cancers. Promotion Publishing. San Diego, California.Google Scholar
  8. Dalton, A.J.P. (1992). Lessons from the United Kingdom: fightback on workplace hazards, 1979–1992.International Journal of Health Services. 22 (3) 489–495.Google Scholar
  9. Dalton, A.J.P. (1993). It's My Job, Doc!Occupational Health Review. Jan/Feb.Google Scholar
  10. Damodaran, L., A.S. Simpson and P.A. Wilson (1980).Designing Systems for People. National Computing Centre. Manchester, U.K.Google Scholar
  11. Department of Health (1993)Workplace Transfer Report. Department of Health (DoH), London.Google Scholar
  12. Fisher, S. (1985). Control and blue-collar Work. In Cooper, C.L. and M.J. Smith (eds.)Job Stress and Blue Collar Work. Wiley Chichester, UK.Google Scholar
  13. Gaillard, A.W.K. and C.J.E. Wientjes. (1994). Mental Load and Two Types of Energy Mobilization. Works and Stress. Special issue:A Healthier Work Environment. 8(2). 141–152.Google Scholar
  14. Garson, B. (1988).The Electronic Sweatshop: how computers are transforming the office of the future into the factory of the past. Simon & Schuster. New York.Google Scholar
  15. Griffiths, A. (1994) The Management of Muskulo-skeletal Upper Limb Disorders and White-collar Work in the UK.Work & Stress 8 (1). 1–3.Google Scholar
  16. Grosdera, T. and M. de Montmollin. (1994).Reasoning and Knowledge of Nuclear Power Plant Operators in Case of Accidents. Applied Ergonomics. 25 (5). 305–308.Google Scholar
  17. Health & Safety Executive. (1992).Display Screen Equipment at work: guidance on regulations. H.M.S.O London.Google Scholar
  18. Hodgson, J.T., J.R. Jones, R.C. Elliot and J. Osman. (1993).Self-reported Work-related Illness. Health & Safety Executive, Research Paper 33. H.M.S.O. London.Google Scholar
  19. Howard, G.S. (1992). No Middle Voice.Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. 12. 12–26.Google Scholar
  20. Huws, U. (1994).Home Truths. National Group on Homeworking Report. London.Google Scholar
  21. Kopec, D. and D. Michie. (1983).Mismatch Between Machine Representations and Human Concepts: Dangers and Remedies. FAST Series No. 9, Science and Technology Policy. Commission of the European Communities. Brussels.Google Scholar
  22. Leal, F. and P. Shipley. (1992). Deep Dualism.International Journal of Applied Philosophy. 7 (2). 33–44.Google Scholar
  23. Levi, L. (1994). Work, Worker and Wellbeing: an overview.Work and Stress. Special Issue: A Healthier Work Environment. 8 (2). 79–83.Google Scholar
  24. London Hazards Centre Trust. (1993).VDU Work and the Hazards to Health. L.H.C. London.Google Scholar
  25. Macmurray, J. (1961).Persons in Relation. Reprinted by Humanities Press 1991. New Jersey, USA.Google Scholar
  26. Marsella, A.J. (1994). The Measurement of Emotional Reactions to Work: conceptual, methodological and research issues.Work and Stress. Special issue:A Healthier Work Environment. 8 (2) 153–176.Google Scholar
  27. Moore-Ede, M. (1993).The 24-hour Society: the risks, costs and challenges of a world that never stops. Piatkus. London.Google Scholar
  28. Oborne, D.J., R. Branton, F. Leal, P. Shipley and T. Stewart. (eds.) (1993).Person-centred Ergonomics: A Brantonian view of human factors. Taylor & Francis, London.Google Scholar
  29. Orlans, V. and P. Shipley. (1993)A Survey of Stress Management and Prevention Facilities in a Sample of UK Organisations. A Report for the Stress Research and Control Centre, Birkbeck College, university of London.Google Scholar
  30. Provenzo, E. (1991).Video Kids: making sense of Nintendo. Harvard University Press. Harvard. USA.Google Scholar
  31. Rosenbaum, M. (1993). The Three Functions of Self-control Behaviour: redressive, reformative and experiential.Work & Stress. 7 (1). 33–46.Google Scholar
  32. Shipley, P. (1993).An Evaluation of the Camden Occupational Health Project. A Report for the King's Fund Institute. London.Google Scholar
  33. Siegrist, J. and R. Peter. (1994). Job Stressors and Coping characteristics in Work-related Disease: issues of validity.Work and Stress. Special issue:A Healthier Work Environment. 8 (2). 130–140.Google Scholar
  34. Special issue ofWork and Stress. (1993). Coping with Stress at Work.WOrk and Stress. Special Issue. 7 (1).Google Scholar
  35. Sternberg, E. (1994)Just Business. Little Brown, London.Google Scholar
  36. The Guardian. (1994). Pain of the Strain Costs £1.25bn a Year.The Guardian. November 22, p. 20.Google Scholar
  37. Weston, R. and R. Hurst. (1982).Zagreb One Four: cleared to collide? Granada. London.Google Scholar
  38. World Health Organizations. (1985).Identification and Control of Work-related Diseases. Technical Report 174. 7–11. WHO. Geneva.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Shipley
    • 1
  1. 1.Stress Research & Control Centre, Department of Organisational Psychology, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations