From carpal tunnel syndrome, to tendonitis, to tension neck syndrome, repetitive strain injuries are prevalent throughout many workplaces.
Today marks the International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day, and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is reminding workplaces to use this opportunity to raise awareness about RSIs and how they can be prevented. Fifteen per cent of Canadians (or 4.5 million people) are affected by RSIs, according to Statistics Canada.
Also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), RSIs are painful disorders that affect tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands. They can be caused by repetitive movements, awkward postures and fixed body positions, excessive force concentrated on small parts of the body (hands and wrists), a fast pace of work with insufficient breaks or recovery time, and psychosocial factors such as stress. MSDs are the most frequent type of lost-time injury and the single largest source of lost-time costs in Canada.
According to CCOHS, prevention of RSIs should focus on eliminating repetitive work through job design, which may involve mechanizing certain tasks. In addition, jobs should be structured so that workers can rotate between different tasks, using different muscles groups.
When it is not practical to eliminate the repetitive aspect of a job, a well-designed work station that is adjusted to fit the worker and allows standing, sitting or sitting-standing positions can help.
Workers should be provided with appropriate, carefully maintained tools and equipment to reduce the force needed to complete tasks and prevent muscle strain and avoid awkward positions, CCOHS said.
Because RSIs develop slowly, workers should be trained to understand what causes these injuries, how best to prevent them and how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of RSI. Workers need to know how to adjust work stations to fit their tasks and individual needs. Employers should also encourage workers to take short, frequent rest breaks.