A man with Repetitive Strain Injuries
A man with Repetitive Strain Injuries

According to Statistics Canada, an estimated 2.3 million workers report having repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), which limits their ability to perform daily activities, annually. That translates to roughly 1 in every 10 Canadian workers. The estimated cost of loss of work for Canadians is between $24 million and $40 million per year.

What are Repetitive Strain Injuries at work?

RSI or musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are commonly diagnosed as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. RSIs are ailments that affect the muscles, nerves, and tendons and are often caused by improperly set up workspaces, or performing repetitive movements. Symptoms include burning, aches & pains, tingling, swelling, and loss of strength in the affected area.

What causes RSIs or MSDs?

It is important to understand that there are many causes of RSI and MSD, such as:

  • Repetitive movements
  • Forceful movements
  • Physiological stress
  • Fast pace/high volume of work
  • Sustained/awkward postures
  • Improperly lit work areas
  • Insufficient recovery time (i.e. breaks, time off)

How can the employer help prevent repetitive strain injuries and illness?

  1. Invest in properly set up workspaces for employees
    • Studies show that for every $1 invested in injury prevention, $2 or more was returned. 40% of CFOs reported that increased employee productivity was the greatest benefit.
    • Blue Cross reported a 70% reduction in lost workdays and an 89% reduction in worker’s compensation costs after it improved office ergonomics.
  2. Educate and train employees about the risk of RSI so they can identify potential ergonomic problems and recognize symptoms early.
  3. Encourage employees to report any symptoms or issues they are experiencing early so that the appropriate intervention can be implemented.
    • If RSIs are left without treatment or correction these symptoms can evolve into chronic or crippling disorders.
    • On average, an employee with an RSI is off work for 7 weeks; longer if it becomes a chronic condition.
  4. Allow for regular breaks throughout the working day.
    • Not only is it beneficial for employees to stretch or do some light exercise throughout the day (especially office workers), studies show that taking a brief break every 50 minutes improves productivity, focus, and creativity.

Just remember, for every RSI that is prevented, approximately $37,000 is saved by the employer. It’s in everyone’s best interest to invest in employee health and wellness. If you’d like to learn more about the business side of safety check out this handy resource from the National Safety Council.

Talus Dougall is an Occupational Health Consultant with Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. – a Canadian company providing expert disability management services to Canadian customers.  She provides education, assessment, and coaching on healthy work postures and ergonomics. For more information on how Talus, or the team at Work to Wellness can help you, click here.