Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #: 163 – Tips to Help Raise the “Awareness” in RSI Day



Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go! broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:  International Repetitive Strain Injury - RSI Awareness Day is February 29th

As the only “non-repetitive” day of the year, it’s the ideal date to devote to raising awareness of repetitive strain injuries.  Here are some tips to help you identify and avoid the patterns that can lead to these injuries.

Also known as musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs, RSIs describe a family of painful disorders affecting tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands.   MSDs are the most frequent type of lost-time injury and the single largest source of lost-time costs in Canada.  Let’s talk about some risk factors:

Ordinary movements such as gripping, holding, bending, twisting, clenching, and reaching that we naturally make every day are not particularly harmful in the activities of our daily lives. However, what can make them hazardous in work situations, is the continual repetition of the movements. Other contributing work factors may include awkward postures and fixed body positions, excessive force concentrated on small parts of the body such as the hand or wrist, vibrations, a fast pace of work with insufficient breaks or recovery time, and psychosocial factors such as stress.

Generally, none of these factors act separately to cause MSDs. MSDs frequently occur as a result of a combination and interaction of factors. Over time, these common actions can affect the muscles, tendons and nerves, resulting in pain, weakness, aches, tingling and numbness.

For employers, eliminating hazards at the source is the most effective solution. Employers should focus on avoiding repetitive patterns of work through job design changes. These job changes can include automating tasks with technology and mechanization, rotating jobs and tasks, distributing work evenly between team workers, and increasing the variety of tasks in a job.

The elimination of repetitive patterns isn’t always possible so employers can use several prevention strategies that include workplace design, which involves fitting the workstation to the worker, providing assistive devices such as carts, hoists, or mechanical handling devices, modifying and improving work practices which include training workers, allowing rest periods, and giving workers more control.  And then there’s also tools and equipment design, which means providing the proper tools that decrease the force and avoid awkward positions.

RSIs take time to develop so it is important to watch for the signs.   Pain, joint stiffness, muscle tightness, redness, swelling of an affected area, numbness, “pins and needles” sensations, and skin colour changes are all possible symptoms of injury.

Because most work activities require the use of the arms and hands, many MSDs affect the hands, wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders. Repetitive tasks and activities that involve using the lower body can lead to MSDs of the legs, hips, ankles, and feet, as well as and some back problems can also result. The pain from these disorders can be felt during work or at rest.

Awareness of the causes of RSIs and developing a prevention program is essential. Inform and train workers, encourage early reporting of symptoms, and identify and control job-related risk factors. For more information and supporting resources, please visit ccohs.ca.

Thanks for listening everyone.