A lobbying campaign has been launched by a coalition of labor, women's and health organizations seeking to protect users of video display terminals from eye strain, backaches and other ailments.

"Since VDTs were introduced in the marketplace without thorough testing and regulation, we're forced to be guinea pigs while the scientists catch up," said Beverly Jackson, chairwoman of Baltimore 9 to 5.

"We don't suggest removing the VDT from the work place. We just want our health and our futures to be protected," said Jackson, speaking for the "Campaign for VDT Safety."

The House Economic Matters Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing earlier this week on a bill that would provide a number of occupational safeguards for employes who work with video display terminals.

Under the legislation, VDT users could not be required to work at a terminal continuously for more than one hour without a 15-minute scheduled break for rest or alternative work.

The measure would require VDT users to be protected from glare, to have adjustable chairs and desks and to be given eye examinations.

Machines would have to meet certain standards and undergo periodic examination, and alternative employment would have to be provided for pregnant operators.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which is opposing the legislation, says the legislation would set such rigid standards that much existing equipment would be rendered inadequate or obsolete and that this would greatly increase operating costs for businesses.

"Video display terminals have been brought into the work place with little concern for the comfort of the worker, and what are the results? Too much glare, improper lighting, chairs with no back support and desks which strain the wrists and arms because they are the wrong height," Jackson charged.

Organizations participating in the VDT lobbying effort include the Communication Workers of America, the Maryland Women's Health Coalition and the AFL-CIO.