Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day an important reminder to listen to your body
Back pain? Numbness in your hands? Sore shoulder? You’re not alone. One in every 10 Canadian adults had a repetitive strain injury (RSI) serious enough to limit normal activities, according to Statistics Canada. The study found approximately 2.3 million Canadians ages 20 and up reported having an RSI in the previous year, and the numbers are growing.
February 28th marks international RSI Awareness Day, and Workplace Safety North (WSN) encourages all workers and employers to mark the occasion by raising awareness and encouraging discussion in the workplace.
RSI stands for repetitive strain injuries. Also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), RSI is a general term used to describe a range of painful disorders affecting tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms, and hands. Repetitive, awkward postures and forceful exertions are examples of work-related risk factors that can contribute to the problem.
“If there’s one message I can get across to workers, it is: ‘You do not have to work in pain,’” says Elisha Malette, WSN Health and Safety Specialist. “Some people think working in pain is normal – and maybe the pain isn’t from work, but let’s assess it – that’s what we need to do.”
Ontario prevention guideline
No matter your industry or job, the following MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario resources are helpful for awareness and prevention of RSI/MSD:
Free online seminar series
The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) is hosting a weekly webinar series during February for RSI Awareness Day.
Session dates and topics include:
- February 10 - Musculoskeletal Disorders
- February 17 - Integrating Components for a Return-to-Work Program
- February 24 - Ergonomics for Specific Occupations
- February 28 - Ergonomic Prevention Tools
Simple steps to help prevent repetitive strain in the workplace
- Incorporate regular rest and stretch breaks, and change your posture many times throughout the day – just get up and move
- Vary or rotate job tasks to change positions and to avoid overuse of any one body part.
- Minimize awkward postures by adjusting work heights, decreasing reaching distances and organizing work stations.
- Modify the work area and equipment to avoid pressing against hard or sharp surfaces.
- Limit the necessity of high exertion by using proper tools such as carts or hoists.
- Reduce the size of loads and carrying distances.
- Report pains and strains to your supervisor before pain becomes severe.
- Call your regional health and safety specialist or a qualified ergonomic and health specialist to help you quickly find and assess risks, and put controls in place before injuries occur.
- Promote a healthy workplace. By building strength, flexibility, and a strong core, workers are more resilient in terms of overall physical health.
“To this day, manual material handling is still a huge problem,” says Malette. “No matter what the industry, people are still picking up heavy things from floor level. This is still happening! There are many control measures available. As a strategy, we need to focus on manual material handing in every industry–-we have to just keep reminding people it’s extremely high risk to the lower back. Again it’s building awareness, and it’s employer due diligence.”
MSD Warning Signs
- Workers making their own modifications to tools or workstations.
- Workers wearing splints or supports.
- Workers massaging muscles or joints or shaking their limbs.
- Workers commenting about or reporting pain, discomfort, or fatigue.
- Workers avoiding a certain task or job because it hurts them.
For more information, contact Workplace Safety North.
MSD Prevention Tools includes employee survey, policy samples, posters, assessment tools, and more.