February 28 is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day, an annual international event to raise awareness of RSIs. Why all the attention? These injuries represent one in three lost-time injury claims in Ontario. For employers, this translates in to 345,000 days lost and $57 million in WSIB costs every year.*
Also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), RSIs are painful and potentially disabling disorders of the tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands. They occur in every industry and are almost entirely preventable.
"Essentially, MSDs are a mismatch between work demands and people’s capability," says WSPS Ergonomic Specialist Don Patten. "Any task we perform or posture we hold long enough could cause an MSD."
Simple tasks like working on a computer, carrying heavy boxes, folding t-shirts or even washing dishes are all tasks that can cause MSDs, but only if we let them.
Use RSI Day to raise awareness
Simple, low-cost measures can prevent many MSDs, and it all starts with building awareness. Here's what Don suggests.
- Inform yourself by reading up on MSDs. "You can’t identify solutions if you don’t understand the problem," says Don. Check out the WSPS' MSD resource page for more insights.
- Inform others. Schedule supervisors, joint health and safety committee (JHSC) members for MSD awareness training, then gradually expand the training to all employees.
- Figure out where MSD hazards may exist. Encourage supervisors and JHSC members to look for hazards, particularly excessive force, awkward postures and repetitive actions. Involve employees by having them complete a discomfort survey. In the longer term, look at the tasks and the physical demands that each job makes on employees. You’ll find a discomfort survey, MSD hazard checklist, physical demands analysis form, and other downloadable tools on WSPS' MSD resources page.
- Introduce MSD awareness concepts into purchasing, work planning, and other business processes so that MSD hazards are reduced or eliminated before they cause injury.
- Know when to call in experts. If surveys and assessments indicate a problem but you’re not sure how to proceed, an ergonomist can work with you to identify solutions. "It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive," says Don. "For instance, providing keyboarders with shortcuts can save a lot of clicks, and providing housekeepers with extendable handles for mops and brushes can reduce bending and reaching."
How WSPS can help
Check out free downloads, guidelines, classroom training, e-courses, consulting services and more on our MSD resource page.
Attend "Development of the New MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario," a session at Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show on May 1-2 in Mississauga and explore solutions at the trade show.
* Source: Ministry of Labour Specialized Professional Services work plan 2017-2018 (Ergonomic Services)