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Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) – The White Collar Injury

Posted in: Safety | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on August 10, 2015

Worker’s Compensation isn’t just for labourers, or anyone working in a hazardous industry who is subject to physical injuries like broken bones, back sprains, muscle strains and industrial fatalities. Over time, WCB coverage has become much more comprehensive and now, depending on the jurisdiction, up to 90% of the workforce is covered — including office workers, and the injuries associated with their employment.

Since the 1970’s, the incidence of white collar accidents or injuries has been steadily increasing — most notably with the advancement of technology and the introduction of digital equipment like computers. The impact is seen with the increase of WCB claims for Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) that is accepted and adjudicated as being work-related. These injuries account for approximately ⅓ of workers compensation paid out in the US and Australia and affect nearly 30% of all workers. Epicondylitis, tendinosis, tendinitis, tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are just a few of the diagnoses encompassed by the RSI umbrella.

There is some discussion within the medical community as to the exact cause of these injuries, how they develop and what role work duties may play.

It’s generally agreed that overuse of muscles in the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck and back are linked to RSI symptoms. The use of vibrating tools, forceful movements, repetitive actions performed in a cold environment and repeated actions which are performed on a daily basis over a long period of time — including the extensive use of a computer keyboard and mouse — are known to be contributing factors.

What remains a mystery is why some people are affected and others are not. Two workers can perform exactly the same job, for the same length of time, in the same environment, using the same equipment and while one may develop RSI, the other may not, which casts some doubt on whether RSI is a work-related injury.

Regardless of whether the medical community can agree on the root cause and whether or not RSI is work-related, the fact remains that any worker suffering from RSI may have difficulty performing their job duties and need to take time off work. Ultimately, this will affect productivity and operating costs, so preventing or addressing RSI in the workplace is paramount to reducing claims and minimizing claims costs and time loss.

If you are looking for a good resource for detailed informatioin and photos on preventing computer-related RSI check here. Listed below are some simple tips that can be put into use right away :

  1. Pay Attention to How You Work:
    Make sure your wrists are in a neutral position
    Adjust the keyboard to a flat position
    Learn to use your mouse with both hands
  2. Take Regular Breaks:
    5 minute breaks for every 20-30 minutes of work
    Walk around, change position
    Move to a different task
  3. Exercise:
    Do stretching exercises for wrists, arms and neck
    Get up and walk around, stretch your legs
    Take it easy after being on holidays
  4. Posture makes Perfect:
    Don’t slouch – it puts strain on the neck
    Sit up straight – it can prevent back strain
    Adjust your seat – to promote proper posture
  5. Assess the Workstation:
    Check your chair for the correct height
    Rearrange your desk to balance the right-hand/left-hand demands
    Make sure your screen, keyboard and mouse are positioned correct
  6. Set Reminders:
    Use a timer on your desk, computer or watch and stick to it
    Attach a list of exercises to the computer monitor
    Remind your co-workers
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