Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a common ailment that involves different injuries caused by excessive repetitive activity or overuse. The spectrum ranges from carpal tunnel syndrome to tendonitis. There is no specific protocol for treating RSI simply because RSI can be caused by many things.
RSI is accompanied by an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli to the overall body from repetitive stress directed to the muscles, nerves, tendons, and other soft tissues. Experts say that RSI is associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous systems triggered by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, or awkward positions.
According to the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), “RSIs are one of the fastest growing workplace injuries, and can result any time there is a mismatch between the physical requirements of the job and the physical capacity of the human body”. Some other factors that can trigger RSI include repetitive motion, static posture, use of appreciable force, awkward postures, heavy lifting, having to work fast and under pressure or a combination of these factors which are ever-present in today’s various businesses or organizational operations.
Unfortunately even typing on the keyboard over extended periods or clicking a mouse on a regular basis can cause RSI and could be associated with carpel tunnel syndrome. The risk associated with RSIs may pose danger to worker’s ability to perform his or her task on a daily basis.
RSIs symptoms vary, but often include; pain or tenderness in your muscles or joints, stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness, weakness or cramp. Experts also believe that RSI usually develops gradually and may range from mild to severe. If the symptoms are left untreated, the symptoms are likely to get worse and cause longer periods of pain. It is practically advisable to get treatments or see a physician as early as possible to increases chance of recovery and reduces risk of long-term problems. RSI’s can also cost businesses money from lost working time, sick pay, and administration. Addressing the causes of the RSI injury will increase the chance that the injury does not reoccur in the individual employee, and protects other employees from developing similar problems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that RSI accounts for about one in four lost-time injuries and illness reported by employers to the BLS and is estimated at 615,000 in 1993 (BLS 1993). One in every three workers’ compensation dollars pays for RSIs. In all, insurers awarded an estimated 2.73 million workers’ compensation claims for RSIs in 1993, costing employers more than $20 billion.
Indirect costs to employers are estimated to be five times that amount — $100 billion. One major insurance company estimated the individual cost per claim to be $8,000, or double the average claim for other injuries or illnesses (OSHA 1996). One major challenge of RSI is the fact that it develops slowly almost under the radar over a long period of time rather which can lead to a lack of diagnosis. This lack of diagnosis can lead to the condition of the RSI to be already in a chronic state when it is finally diagnosed.
It is absolutely essential to have a concrete or in-depth knowledge on the root cause of RSIs to enable an immediate action and implement a preventive program. The preventive program should focus towards reducing likelihood of RSI in the workplace while on the other hand improve productivity and efficiency.
Encouraging your employees to report signs of an RSI early can help manage contributing problems easily and quickly. Additionally, conducting walkthroughs of work areas can help detect where employees may be exposed to the risk factors which contribute to RSI. Encouraging employees to participate in these walkthroughs can also help detect problems early, and ensure they are addressed.
By Stanley Njoku, Consulting Technician
Reich Robert, B. US. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), (1996). Preventing repetitive stress injuries (Archived). Retrieved from website: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=206 (accessed October 18, 2013).
UCLA. Ergonomics. (n.d) Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI): http://ergonomics.ucla.edu/homepage/injuries-and-prevention/111-repetitive-strain-injury-rsi.html (accessed October 18, 2013).