Recently, one of clients was asking our advice about “RSI”. A number of their employees have raised issues over the past few years about pain in their wrists, arms and necks, most suggesting it was due to extensive computer use. Our client was worried about the ongoing issues related to this – both from a productivity point of view but also because they wanted to look out for their people. So, they asked us what they could do about it.
We should start by saying this is a very common question for us. Probably because ‘Repetition Strain Injury’ (RSI) or ‘Occupational Overuse Syndrome’ (OOS) as it is known to us in the health and safety biz, is very common. In fact, it has been found that upwards of 77% of workers across a variety of occupations reported having experienced mild to severe RSI (Australian Government, Comcare, 1997). With an increased reliance on computers, tablets and smartphones – it is safe to assume that this may have increased in more recent years?!
So, what is it? RSI is a term that covers many different kinds of discomfort or pain in the muscles and tendons caused by repetitive or forced movements, or sustained or constrained postures. Examples of RSI you may have heard of are things like Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Writer’s Cramp.
Though there are so many different renditions of RSI, there are some things that you can do to decrease the likelihood of your people suffering from it in any form it comes in. SafeWork Australia have some, quite lengthy, guidance notes specifically created for computer users. But we thought we’d break it down for you a bit.
So, three major things to think about:
- Your work systems – Think about how you can reduce the amount of repetitive or prolonged work that is required within the daily work life of your people. Can you encourage more frequent work breaks or more task variation? Are you making sure you allow appropriate time for your people to get used to new technology or processes, or are you demanding the same speed? Talk to you people and gauge how they feel.
- The workplace itself – Think about creating the most well-designed workplace you can. Are your workstations suitable for all the shapes and sizes of your people? Is the workplace environment appropriate? And do your people have access to the equipment they need to perform their tasks as best they can, with minimal risk? Implementing some positive changes to account for these things will increase comfort, improve efficiency and minimise the risk of RSI claims.
- Training and education – Think about offering some information sessions or talking openly to your people about RSI. Do your people know anything about RSI? Do they know what they can change in their personal working style to avoid it? Training your people can be great strategy to prevent instances of RSI. And this way everyone can play a part in prevention.
As an employer or manager, you have a duty to protect the health and safety of your people whilst they are at work. So, RSI is an important thing for you to consider – especially given its prevalence! So, may take a few hours this week to consider the above 3 points, talk to your people and get their opinion… and of course if you are still stuck – call in the experts (like us)!