"The problems associated with video display terminals are being studied at an increasingly frantic pace by government agencies, unions and universities around the world," writes Joel Makower in Office Hazards: How Your Job Can Make You Sick.

"Most of the earliest studies were done outside the United States, primarily in European countries like Sweden, Austria and West Germany, which have aggressive government-sponsored programs examining a wide range of occupational health and safety issues."

In Scandinavian countries, this research has resulted in regulations to protect workers, says Swedish engineering psychologist Olov Ostberg, a pioneer in the still-emerging field of "technology health science."

"Sweden is the most computerized country in the world," notes Ostberg, who says 10 percent of Swedish workers now use VDTs extensively and 45 percent rely on VDTs occasionally. "These numbers are, of course, growing."

Unions are largely responsible for prompting regulations concerning worker safety. "But you have to understand," says Ostberg, "that our unions are very different from those in America. Eighty-five percent of eligible workers belong to the Central Organization of Salaried Employees of Sweden.

"In Sweden, work must be organized in such a way that the VDT operator can intermittently be given periods of rest or work involving more conventional visual requirements. Employers must provide eye exams for employes who start using VDTs. They must provide eyeglasses, if required."

Norway has gone "even further," says Ostberg. "They now have recommended a regulation that no one must work more than 50 percent of their time in front of a VDT."