A Common Type of Workplace Accident
It is a common type of workplace accident claim and is caused by carrying out repetitive tasks on an ongoing basis. It commonly affects workers who carry out the same task for a number of hours each day. Repetitive Strain Injuries can arise where workers do not receive sufficient breaks from repetitive work or are asked to carry out an excessive amount of the same work. Such injuries regularly arise in manufacturing processes involving bulk production of similar items. RSI is a type of Work Related Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD). This is the name given to the group of injuries that are commonly caused by overuse, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Ganglion.
Repetitive Strain Injuries are divided into two groups, known as RSI Type 1 and RSI Type 2.
RSI Type 1
This is the name given to a type of RSI which has a diagnosable medical condition. This would be similar to injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Symptoms of type 1 include swelling or inflammation of tendons in hands, wrists or elbows. There is usually visible swelling in these cases.
RSI Type 2
Injuries of this type do not have any specific medical condition attached to them and no specific diagnosis can be given. There are no visible symptoms but there is pain, numbness and a tingling sensation surrounding the affected area. Injuries in this category are often given the name of Diffuse RSI.
Symptoms of RSI
- Pain and numbness
- Tenderness of affected area
- Tingling sensation
- Weakness of the injured area
It is often the case that symptoms present themselves while you are physically carrying out the task but you may still feel pain or discomfort after you have completed the activity and throughout the day. Symptoms can also develop over time and many people may be unaware of this injury until symptoms become more visible.
- Carrying out repetitive activities
- Working on a production line
- Inadequate breaks throughout the day
- Poor Posture or being in an awkward position while carrying out activities
- Badly designed equipment such as office chairs and keyboards
- Badly designed workspace
- Inadequate working environments
- Repeated use of vibrating tools
- Heavy lifting
- Operating machinery or tools
Fluid filled sac near your joints becomes inflamed and/or swollen.
Cyst formed when tissue surrounding joints become inflamed. Usually occurs in the wrist of fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the nerves in your hand that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the thumb or fingers.
Radial Tunnel Syndrome
Occurs from overuse of the arm when pushing and pulling or of the wrist that damages nerves and causes pain in the forearm.
Inflammation of the tendons that moderate the movement of the thumb.
This overuse injury occurs when a blood supply is cut off from a particular part of the body – for example, a finger causing pain and in some cases gangrene.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Pain, paralysis or numbness in the ring or little fingers from overuse.
Rotator Cuff Syndrome
Damage to the tendons in the shoulder that hold the shoulder joint in place. This is particularly common in work practices that involve repeated overhead reaching or activity.
This condition affects the hand in that a person may not be able to fully extend their fingers into an open hand.
Dystonia (Writer’s Cramp)
Involuntary muscle spasm of the fingers and also other parts of the body. This type of overuse injury can be seen in writers as well as office workers and musicians.
Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Conditions affecting the outer part of the elbow. Repetitive twisting can cause this condition.
Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)
Conditions affecting the inside of the lower arm. Repetitive twisting can bring on this condition.
Treatment for RSI
Treatment will vary depending on the severity of your injury. When making a repetitive strain injury claim note that as part of your settlement you may be entitled to claim the cost of medical care relating to the injury.
Some common medical treatments for RSI for illustrative purposes only are:
In some cases anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to help reduce swelling and inflammation of the affected area. Muscle relaxants may also be prescribed to help relieve pain and discomfort.
You may need to use a split to support the affected area
Using hot or cold packs may be a remedy for pain and discomfort
Treatment from a physiotherapist may be needed to help you how to manage the injury and what to do to recuperate.
Similar to physiotherapy, an osteopath may take a more hands-on approach to working the affected area to help relieve pain.
In severe cases, a person may need surgery to combat the injury.
Protecting against Repetitive Strain Injury
All employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that their health and safety is looked after. If this duty of care is breached in any way then the risk of injury is going to be higher. An employer has certain duties which will help to ensure the safety of employees and reduce the risk of injury. These duties include;
- Carrying out regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards
- Providing the correct equipment needed by employees to carry out their job such as ergonomic keyboards and chairs that help employee posture
- Providing employees with adequate training so that they are aware of what to do if an accident or injury was to occur
Although it is not possible to completely prevent employees from getting injured, an employer should do everything they can to ensure the risk of this is very low. If an employer has failed to put adequate safety measures in place which has resulted in the injury of an employer then they will be found liable for this. A claim can be made against an employer if it is found that their negligence caused an injury or accident or that there was a breach of their duty of care.
For all Places of Work
- An employer must allow an employee to take regular breaks from repetitive tasks. Tip: set a reminder to take a break from your regular tasks.
- Stretching – for those who might sit down a lot on the job, whether it be in the office or a driver, for example, stopping, standing and stretching is important.
Specific to Office Workers:
One of the most common RSI’s these days is office workers at their desks. Some of the causes of these injuries are:
- Ergonomics – the desk, chair and screen should be aligned in an ergonomic fashion so as to prevent injuries – employers should have taken this into consideration.
- Posture – avoid slouching
- Typing – keep your wrists arms and fingers aligned when typing, don’t hit the keys too hard
- Temperature – ensure that it is not too hot or too cold in your working environment where possible.
- Telephone – for those who need to talk and type at the same time, your employer should provide you with a headset to prevent you from supporting the phone between your face and shoulders – this can lead to injury.
What to do after an accident at work*?
Following an accident at work, there are a number of steps you should follow:
Seek medical attention
Your health is your wealth and should be your first priority. Immediately after an accident at work, take a second to assess yourself to determine if you have any injuries and seek the relevant medical attention. If you have sustained a serious injury ensure that you contact an ambulance to attend the scene.
For minor injuries, you must remember that minor injuries where you ‘feel fine’ could progress to more serious injuries in the future. In this case it is always better to be safe than sorry and advisable that you go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) or local GP to be checked out.
Report the accident
It is critical to report the accident to your superior, i.e. a supervisor or manager on site. It doesn’t matter how small you think the accident may be. By law, accidents at work are required to be reported if the person is injured and can’t perform their daily work tasks for more than three days. Make sure to fill out an Accident Report Form. This can be used for reference in any medical examination and will also prevent any similar accidents from happening in the future.
Identify any witnesses
If possible, try to collect the contact details of anybody that witnessed your accident. This may be of use if you do decide to pursue a workplace accident claim. It is also useful to find out if there is any CCTV in the area where your accident happened.
Document the incident
It is important that you collect all the relevant information in connection with your accident:
- How the accident happened
- Details of any witnesses
- If there are any CCTV recordings of your accident
- Take pictures of where the accident happened and what caused your accident
Speak to a workplace accident solicitor
If you are considering moving forward with a workplace accident claim for any personal injuries sustained, it is advisable that you speak with a workplace accident claims solicitor as soon as possible. If you are proceeding with a claim, the first step will be submitting your claim to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for assessment. A workplace accident solicitor can help you in preparing your application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and ensure that you follow the process in the correct format, meaning that you can move forward with your claim quickly without unnecessary delays.
It is important to remember to keep copies of any expenses that you have incurred as a result of the accident. It is also imperative to retain copies of medical reports or incident report forms where possible as you will need them when making a claim.