Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Small Business Workplace

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) occur if an employee is putting too much stress on one of their extremities. It generally occurs from performing the same task over and over again, common for office workers, cashiers, and warehouse workers.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related injuries like RSI can also be very costly to your business. It states that in 1993 alone employers paid out over $20 billion for these injuries. It is important to learn as much as possible about RSIs, when they are most common, and how you can prevent them for your employees in order to reduce your workers’ compensation claims.

Occupational Risks for RSIs

While anyone can get a repetitive stress injury, there are some occupations that are at a higher risk for this condition. If you run an administrative office, your office workers are at great risk, with these occupations being some of the most commonly associated with RSIs.

Most cases of RSIs occur with the upper extremities, which includes the wrists, hand, and elbows. RSIs occurring to these areas are often the result of using the keyboard and mouse consistently throughout the day.

Grocery store workers that scan items are also at risk, as they use the scanner and cash register for hours at a time. Other occupations where the employee is in a fixed position or performs the same job all day, every day is at risk, such as warehouse employees, assembly line workers, abutchers and meat packers, drivers and writers. Construction workers are also at risk,particularly when they perform jackhammering, sawing, and cutting tasks.

Common Warning Signs

If you are concerned about repetitive stress injuries either for yourself or your employees, there are some common signs that exist for this type of condition. The first is obviously pain, and usually the first symptom you experience. With RSI, the pain can be a dull ache or a sharp pain. It hurts in the extremity being affected, such as the elbow, wrist, hand, or back. It is likely worse after the first few hours of working for the day, gradually getting worse as the day goes on. Certain movements at work might be more painful. Numbness and tingling is another warning sign of RSI, where a tingling sensation can be felt in the area being affected. Fatigue is also common, whereby it may prove challenging to perform the same function for long periods of time before tiring of it.

How to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries

Preventing repetitive stress injuries includes proper training and ergonomics. For office workers especially, their work desks should be set up ergonomically. This includes having their chair at a proper height, sitting up straight, placing their monitor a certain distance away, and having their keyboard, mouse and phone in the right position. Once everything is in the right position, be sure they are also taking frequent breaks to rest and stretch their hands and arms. Resting and stretching is important for all workers and helps tremendously in preventing RSIs.

Not only should you help your employees learn about preventive measures for avoiding RSIs, but protect them with a workers’ compensation insurance policy.