How to stop repetitive strain becoming a repetitive pain

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Repetitive Strain Injury (RSIs) or Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) as it’s otherwise known is any injury caused by repeated movement. Any overworked joint or muscle can fall foul of RSI. From lifting incorrectly over long periods to typing or repeatedly clicking a mouse, it’s an injury that creeps up unnoticed and strikes without warning. For that reason it’s the bane of any business trying to keep workers on the job and productivity high. In this article we’ll look at repetitive strain injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

Signs of strain

When we think of RSI we generally think of the hands, but its debilitating effects can attack the tendons and muscles in the wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders and back. Symptoms can be anything from your common garden variety pain to muscle weakness, swelling, numbness and limited movement. Once it hits it can be very hard to reverse without considerable downtime. The key is to stop it happening in the first place.

Who is at risk?

Pretty much anyone you employ can succumb to RSI in some way, shape or form. Office workers banging away on keyboards are using their hands like spiders on a treadmill working the same tendons and muscles into the ground. Process workers are performing repetitive loading, lifting and packing tasks that might resemble an aerobics workout if it didn’t go on all day every day. And warehouse workers loading and unloading Motorised pallet trucks and trolleys are repeating the same arduous movements from truck to floor to shelves all day long.

What can you do for office workers?

Have a good hard look at your systems and see where any RSI risks lie. Are your typists’ desks and chairs at the right height? Are their chairs ergonomically designed to support the back and create good posture and hand position? If they’re using laptops, could these be replaced with PCs or attached to full size keyboards?  Are they using mouse pads? If not, they should be. Are they getting regular breaks away from their desks to stretch and relax?

What can you do for process and warehouse workers?

Basically you should do anything and everything that minimises the manual lifting and moving of products. There are all kinds of innovative materials handling equipment designed to do most of the handling and reduce troublesome manual labour. Conveyors, pallet trucks, trolleys and carts allow the movement of products between trucks and shelves and along production lines with far less carrying, bending and stretching. Analyse your layout. Are fast moving items as close to your packing bench or production line as they can be? Are they on low shelves? Is your workspace too congested or, even worse, too spread out? Are your workers properly trained in safe materials handling techniques? With the right combination of training, equipment and efficient workspace design, you can reduce or eliminate most of the repetitive work practices leading to RSI downtime.

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