Director, veritas consulting safety services

November 13, 2014

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5 Tips For Reducing Workplace RSI

Recent reports suggest that cases of workplace Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) are on the increase once more. Research conducted by ergonomics expert Fellowes discovered:

  • One in five office workers takes up to 3 weeks off each year due to workplace health problems.
  • 40% of workers claim backache as the main reason for missing work.
  • Workplace absence and sick pay costs the UK £7 billion every year.

The Fellowes report focuses on office-based workers, but the truth is that RSI can affect workers in any industry. Any activity that involves a degree or repetitive motion can cause RSI, described by the NHS as “the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse”.

Because RSI can affect virtually any worker in any job, it is important that employers not only recognise the reality of the condition, but actively work to reduce the risk of developing such injuries among their employees. Here are five tips to help protect your workers against RSI.

1. Include ergonomic issues in your risk assessments

Your business should already be performing risk assessments for the various activities your employees do at work. These should be updated to include additional checks regarding repetitive activities as standard.

2. Implement safeguards

Where the risk assessment identifies potential issues, either in the operating environment or with the supplied tools and workspace, your business has a duty to remedy them as soon as possible. Often these recommendations will involve the purchase of more expensive equipment/PPE, but such costs should be balanced against the far greater implications of long-term sick employees and potential problems associated with breaching The Health and Safety at Work Act.

3. Train staff to use equipment properly

Even with ergonomic equipment, workers can still develop repetitive strain injuries when it is used incorrectly. All staff training should cover how to use tools safely, with additional attention paid to using equipment in such a way that it reduces the risk of developing RSI.

4. Ensure equipment is properly maintained

Similarly tools specially designed to reduce the risk of developing RSI, such as low-vibration alternatives, have the potential to cause injury if improperly maintained. Your business needs to implement a regular maintenance routine to assess and service tools to prevent them from getting stiff, or developing defects that affect their proper operation. Failure to do so shortens the usable lifespan of equipment and places employee health at risk.

5. Encourage employees to take regular breaks

Although it may seem counter-productive, encouraging employees involved in physically repetitive activities to take regular breaks will help reduce muscular strain. Staff should be encouraged to walk around and carry out simple stretching exercises to reduce muscular strain.

As the name suggests, repetitive strain injuries are caused by repetition. Wherever possible you need to limit such activities, improve conditions for people performing those duties and to give them plenty of breaks throughout the working day.

So over to you – have your employees ever been affected by RSI? How does your business prepare the workplace to reduce the risk of developing RSI?

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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