International RSI Awareness Day 2018
Over 2.3 million Canadian adults are diagnosed and learning to cope with repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) each year and this number is increasing steadily. The impact of these injuries and disorders, not only on the individuals involved but on our society as a whole is enormous, which is why the last day of February has been recognized as International RSI Awareness Day.
These injuries and disorders can be crippling, seriously affecting the ability to work or even perform daily activities. They often develop slowly, over time and although there is some discussion about the direct cause, it is generally accepted that work-related activities can be a contributing factor to the onset, severity, and location of an RSI or MSD.
The 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.
As such, the number of acceptable WCB claims in Alberta for RSIs has been rising, especially within office workplaces, where an increased use of computers, keyboards, mouses and other technology is seen. As more job duties and tasks become digitized and computerized, there will likely be further increases in RSI claims from different and unexpected occupations.
Ultimately RSIs and MSDs 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.
As with any injury, the best method of prevention is eliminating the hazard at its source but due to the insidious nature of RSIs and MSDs, it is not always easy to identify what the hazard is or will be. There are prevention and control measures that can be put into practice including ergonomic assessments of workstations, identifying and addressing repetitiveness of work duties, reviewing equipment and procedural practices and proper job design but even implementing these measures cannot prevent all RSIs in the workplace. Therefore early diagnosis and intervention is key to minimizing any claims cost.
Here are some simple preventative tips that can be put to use right away:
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
Take Regular Breaks:
- 5-minute breaks for every 20-30 minutes of work
- Walk around, change position
- Move to a different task
- Do stretching exercises for wrists, arms, and neck
- Get up and walk around, stretch your legs
- Take it easy after being on holidays
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
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 correctly
- 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
Detailed information and photos on preventing computer-related RSI can be found here. For further assistance in managing RSI or MSD’s in your organization, you can contact us directly at BCL.Calgary@bclconsulting.ca, BCL.Edmonton@bclconsulting.ca, by phone, at 1-844-377-9545 or you can connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.