Reducing Repetitive Strain Injuries By Workplace Design

Reducing Repetitive Strain Injuries By Workplace Design

Many different types of work require repetitive motion or lack of movement altogether. Workers who frequently shift from standing to sitting can damage their knees. Others stand for long periods with little variety of movement, causing lower back stress and joint pain. If they experience muscular, nerve, or joint pain regularly, and believe that it's work related, the cause may be repetitive strain injury (RSI). RSI is generally caused by performing a particular activity repeatedly or for a long period of time.

RSI may be prevented by designing a workplace that's ergonomically planned out with the worker in mind. The goal of ergonomics is to ‘fit the job to the person,’ rather than making the person fit the job. Most people have heard about computers, desks, and chairs needing to be adjusted to the person to prevent strain. There are also ergonomic tools and solutions for individuals performing outdoor and physical labor.

Flat, firm, and stable surfaces (like concrete) coupled with static work, cause lower back pain due to atrophy of the muscles that provide support for tissue of the lumbar spine. For workers that stand for long periods, the solution may be Extreme Standing Mats from Working Concepts. Some applications include: barbershops, auto service centers, bars/restaurants (behind the bar and food preparation areas), and tool shops.

Kneeling mats offer similar but unique protection. Imagine kneeling for a long period of time. Your body weight forces your body's natural lubricant out of its contact points. The pain signals excess fluid to the joints which can lead to arthritis over the long term. Knee pads may be a better fit than a kneeling mat for workers who frequently kneel for short periods of time. Examples include: electrical, welding, plumbing, construction, service, and painting professionals. Knee pads may be worn either inside garments with double layers of fabric on the knees, or strapped on externally depending on preference as the video below illustrates. Your knees will thank you.

In addition to kneeling mats and knee pads, also consider  anti-vibration gloves if appropriate for the application. Natural and man-made vibrations are amplified by concrete and steel floors leading to pain in the load bearing joints. These gloves will minimize the risk of hand or wrist injury.

On a final note, OSHA classifies repetitive strain injuries as "no-fault". This means employers can't say RSIs were the employees' fault. Employers generally can't deny benefits for injuries based on old injuries/illnesses being a contributing factor. This is because employers take employees "as-is" when hiring them. Employers bear all of the cost of workers compensation claims so it's in their best interest to prevent them. Make the simple and inexpensive decision now to protect your workforce before it becomes a costly headache down the line.

Sep 8th 2015 Alastar Kerpel

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