Human Face Of Ergonomics

The human face of ergonomics can be seen on the pained face of San Fong Sek.

She worked hunched over a sewing machine in New York's Chinatown 12 hours a day, six days a week, for 15 years -- repeating a series of motions that damaged her nerves and ultimately robbed her right leg of feeling.

Sek has been out of work since June of 1998 because of her injuries, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"I have patients that cannot hold a cup of coffee because their hands are so weak," said Dr. Jaime Szeinuk.

The story of San Fong Sek tells us a lot about ergonomics and today's workplace. The pain is felt by all sorts of people, not just those who peck away at computer keyboards all day. And what's going on at a New York garment factory tells us a lot about how to deal with that pain.

Peter Wong didn't wait to be told how to prevent repetitive stress injuries. Three months ago, he bought new chairs for his factory floor -- chairs that adjust to the individual postures and positions of each of his 60 workers.

It was the kind of upgrade the Clinton administration proposal would make mandatory. At $150 a chair, Wong says it's some of the best money he ever spent.

"There are less people calling in sick and...I need my employees here to make my production, so the more comfortable they are, the more productive they are and the better it is for me," Wong said.

It's better for him and for his workforce. It's the kind of factory San Fong Sek wishes she could have found years ago.