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The Impact of Repetitive Strain Injuries In the Workplace

Client Computing | Posted on September 29, 2017 by Angela Cope

Many organizations with labor-intensive jobs have strict health and safety regulations in place. For good reason. Safety rules protect employees and reduce costs and risks of workplace accidents.

However, health risks aren’t just associated with labor-intensive jobs. Injuries associated with long-term computer usage are on the rise. These injuries are referred to as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs).

RSI is an umbrella term for multiple injuries affecting tissues of the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulder, arms, and hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is just one example. On the severe end, people develop Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD).

According to Stats Canada, RSIs affect about 15% of Canadians (4.5 million people). In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2013 MSDs cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness causes.

The Impact of RSIs and MSDs in the Workplace

RSIs and MSDs are the most frequent type of lost-time injury. In Canada, RSIs and MDSs are the single largest source of lost-time costs. In the U.S., the costs associated with RSIs and MSDs are estimated at $20 billion every year according to the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

More than ever, companies need to recognize the scale of this problem. But workers and employers don’t understand RSIs and MSDs.

Identifying RSIs or MSDs is difficult. These injuries develop slowly. Most people tend to neglect warning signs. People work through the pain. This approach increases the significance of the issue.

It’s no surprise many employees and employers lack education on the topic. There is a solution to the problem. It starts with prevention.

How to Introduce Healthy Computing 

Repetitive movements – gripping, holding, twisting, etc. – are the chief cause of RSIs and MSDs. Eliminating repetitive work so that workers can rotate between different tasks and use different muscle groups is the ideal preventative measure.

Sometimes though, it’s not possible or practical to eliminate the repetitive aspects of a job. We know that. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top 3 measures your organization can implement to reduce RSIs and MSDs.

3 Ways to Prevent RSIs and MSDs:

1. Prioritize the Problem

Developing a healthy computing environment is not going to happen overnight. Prevention of RSIs and MSDs should be seen as a priority project with a board of staff in place. Your organization can also look to hire an ergonomic specialist to help lead the initiative.

2. Increase Awareness

Both workers and employers need to understand the issue at hand. Lack of education is part of the reason so many people work through the early signs of an injury.

Place posters up around the office in common areas like the break room. There are endless posters and guides that can be downloaded for free. Participate in RSI Awareness Day which takes place on February 28th every year.

Through proper training and education models, employees can understand what they can do to decrease their chances of developing RSIs or MSDs.

3. Provide the Right Equipment

Setting up a workspace with ergonomic equipment is essential. A well-designed workstation that can adjust to fit the worker and allows for standing or sitting positions can help. Look at different standing-desks and ergonomic chairs options.

Secondly, you’ll want to invest in proper healthy computing equipment such as keyboards and mice. Microsoft offers up a wide variety of ergonomic comfort products such as the Sculpt Comfort Mouse and Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.

The right equipment will reduce the force needed to complete tasks and prevent muscle strain.

One Step Closer to a Healthy Computing Environment

The three steps are just starting points to fighting RSIs and MSDs in the workplace. If you require detailed information, download the Employer’s Guide to Health Computing and Ergonomics whitepaper.

Preventing RSIs and MSDs is a responsibility organizations should not take lightly. Failing to implement preventative measures only ends up costing more at the end of the day. An IT department can support the cause by providing the workforce with ergonomic equipment.

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