Is it painful to work at your company?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Repetitive Strain Injury Day an important reminder to protect yourself and your co-workers

Back pain? Numbness in your hands? Sore shoulder? You’re not alone. One out of every 10 Canadian adults had a repetitive strain injury serious enough to limit their normal activities, according to a 2003 Statistics Canada report. The study found that approximately 2.3 million people age 20 and up reported having had an RSI in the previous year, and the numbers are growing.

Repetitive strain injury or ‘RSI’ is an umbrella term for a group of disorders caused by repetitive movements that affect the muscles, tendons and nerves. Unlike other injuries, which occur at a single point in time, RSIs develop over an extended period. For example, RSIs can set in after months or years of gripping and clicking a mouse, or lifting and turning to unload inventory for up to seven or eight hours a day.

RSIs most often affect the upper body – with about 25 percent in the neck or shoulder, 23 percent in the wrist or hand, followed by 19 percent affecting the back, and then 16 percent for the elbow or lower arm. The remaining 17 percent involved a lower extremity or unspecified body part, according to the report. Also known as musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs, they are usually caused by work-related activities and account for more than 54 percent of all lost-work days.

High-risk occupations

Compassionate supervisors will keep in mind that people in management are the least likely to develop an RSI, while women and men who work in sales or service; trades, transport or equipment operating; farming, forestry, fishing or mining; and processing, manufacturing or utilities have high odds of reporting an RSI. Stress levels also have an effect: working at a fast pace, uncertainty of role, worry, and monotonous tasks are all associated with RSIs.

Long-term effects

Having built up over time, the healing process can be frustratingly slow – there is often no ‘quick fix.’ Behind this rather large statistic are more than two million stories of human suffering: stress from missing work; dealing with bureaucracy around sick days, medical appointments and WSIB claims; inability to enjoy regular everyday activities; and living daily with chronic pain – all of which typically lead to psychological distress including depression – so awareness and prevention are key.

What can you do to prevent repetitive strain injury?

1. Report pains and strains to your supervisor before it becomes an RSI

If the same muscles and joints are becoming sore day after day, you may be at risk of developing an RSI.

2. Ergonomic assessment

Access a qualified ergonomic and health specialist for a free, confidential meeting to discuss your organization’s specific needs. Consultant-trainers can help you identify and assess risks, and put controls in place before injuries occur, helping you keep productivity and morale high.

3. Encourage physical fitness

Since RSIs build up over years of repetition, the best way to prevent or help heal a repetitive strain injury is to take care of overall health. By building strength and flexibility – with a stronger core – the more resilient one is in terms of physical health. 

Investigate convenient ways for workers to get and stay fit: Does your company offer posters that encourage stretching, gym memberships, lunchtime fitness classes, walking groups? All of these can go a long way to encouraging physical self-care in the work environment. Check with your WSN Ergonomic and Health Specialist for additional suggestions and resources.

Free resources

Check out free resources from WSN including ‘Tips for Eliminating and Controlling MSDs,’ ‘Aches and Pains Safety Meeting Talk’ which includes a PowerPoint presentation, leader guide and participant manual, ‘Ergonomic Safety Talk for Supervisors,’ and much more.

Upcoming training

‘Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention’ half-day training course as part of the ‘Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification Part 2: Workplace Specific Hazard Training’ – March 19 in Vaughan, May 28 in Mississauga. Get information about training in your area.

Contact your WSN Ergonomic and Health Specialists today

Toll free in Ontario 1-888-730-7821

Northeastern and Southern OntarioJo-Anne Hurd, extension 236, joannehurd@workplacesafetynorth.ca

Northwestern OntarioSabrina Francescut, extension 309, sabrinafrancescut@workplacesafetynorth.ca

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