It may not be tennis elbow or writer’s cramp, but the crush of 46,000 comments the state has received on hydraulic fracturing may have caused its own occupational hazard: scanning shoulder.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is conducting an ergonomic review of a temporary office for scanning and logging the tens of thousands of responses after an employees’ union lodged a complaint last month.
A worker assigned to the “bullpen” — as the office has been dubbed — suffered a shoulder injury in January that the union suspects may have been caused by an inefficient setup, said Wayne Bayer, a DEC steward for the Public Employees Federation.
The complaint, Bayer said, led to a shutdown of the scanning for “a day or two” last month. The union claims the injury was likely caused by “improper equipment, improper level of the equipment” or the motion of repeatedly operating the scanners, he said.
“I requested an ergonomic study to be done to protect (workers) in case this was work related — to ensure that other people would not experience similar problems,” said Bayer. He has spoken out against allowing hydrofracking in New York until the DEC receives additional resources.
Bayer declined to name the employee because of privacy concerns.
Lisa King, a DEC spokeswoman, confirmed that the agency is undertaking the review. Some of the work in the office was “temporarily curtailed during internal analysis of work flow,” but it was “never shut down due to an ergonomic complaint,” she wrote in an email.
“An ergonomic evaluation is currently underway for the temporary scanning operation in the ‘Bull Pen,’ which was established to enter comments concerning high volume hydraulic fracturing,” King wrote. “Possible changes are under review.”
The complaint highlights some of the logistical issues the DEC is dealing with as it continues to process the tens of thousands of comments received on its proposed hydrofracking guidelines and regulations. (King said they’ve counted 46,000 comments so far and are still tallying.)
Thousands of those comments were submitted in the final day of the comment period, including several boxes submitted by environmentalists (pictured above) and form letters signed by thousands of landowners. All paper comments must be scanned in and categorized.
(AP Photo / Mike Groll)