February 28th is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day!

February 28th is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day!

February 29th is International RSI Awareness Day (it takes place on February 28th in non-leap years)! This powerful movement is celebrated each year on the last day of February, the only non-repetitive day of the year. RSI is a general term used to describe injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other soft tissues. These injuries often occur when awkward motions are repeated for an extended period of time, and they have the potential to develop into Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Tendinitis. MSDs account for a significant portion (approximately one-third) of all accepted WSIB lost time claims. In 2017 alone, there were 19,000 claims, 462,000 days lost from work, and $72 million in direct WSIB costs.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), almost all work in Canada involves the use of the arms and hands, so the most common MSDs affect the upper extremities. Employers all across Canada are investing heavily to enhance their workplace to help prevent these types of injuries, and also provide additional support to those currently suffering with a Work-Related MSD (WMSD).

In 2019, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced that it would be focusing on musculoskeletal hazards in the workplace as part of its new provincial health and safety compliance initiative. The MOL is focusing on the construction, health care, industrial, and mining sectors, and is executing on different phases of the compliance initiative through 2020. For more information on the compliance focus, phases of the initiative, and timing of inspections, click here.

What Causes an MSD?

  • Force (especially when focused on small body parts such as the wrist)
  • Awkward posture
  • Static body posture
  • Repetition
  • Long duration
  • Pace (if it does not allow sufficient recovery time between movements)
  • Temperature (heat or cold)
  • Vibrations

Common WMSD Symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle tightness
  • Redness of area
  • Swelling of impacted area
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Numbness
  • Skin colour change
  • Decreased sweating of the hands

WMSD Treatment:

  • Restriction of movement
  • Application of heat or cold
  • Exercise
  • Medication and surgery

WMSD Prevention: 

A fundamental principle of occupational health and safety is to eliminate hazards at their source. Ergonomics and provision of a solid ergonomic risk assessment of the work duties can reduce the hazards. Common workplace hazards for WMSDs can be avoided through changes in job design. Employers can alter different elements of the job design including:

  • Mechanization
  • Job rotation
  • Job enlargement and enrichment (increase task variety)
  • Team work
  • Workplace design
  • Tool and equipment design
  • Work practices (actual performances and worker habits

What Can Employers Do?

  1. Implement musculoskeletal injury prevention policies and procedures.
  2. Have ergonomic risk assessments completed.
  3. Educate employees on early identification and adjustments for improving prevention of RSI.
  4. Educate managers and H&S staff on ways to address the risks.
  5. Engage employees in the solutions (participatory ergonomics works!)
  6. Contact an Occupational Therapist to support prevention and return to work planning.
  7. Collect data on how MSD and RSI incidents are impacting your workplace to support continued efforts of prevention and engagement of leadership in the solutions.
  8. Contact Gowan Consulting for an in-person or virtual ergonomic assessment.

How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

Gowan Consulting can assist you in ensuring that you are prepared for any MSD inspection. We can help with the following:

  • Consultation on review of your policies, risk assessments and interventions
  • Provision of ergonomic assessments
  • Provision of ErgoBlasts for healthy employee education and workstation adjustments
  • Development of a return to work process that is supportive of employees with RSIs or MSDs

We also have a number of different resources to assist you with the health and safety demands of your business, including:

  • Provide support for policy and procedures development
  • Train managers and employees on injury prevention and ergonomics
  • Provide objective Occupational Therapy assessments for accommodation requests

If you’d like to learn more about workplace accommodations, please check out our services for Providing Early Intervention and Return to Work planning.

More Tools

  • Check out our new Working from Home Series! We are offering live sessions as well as a webinar bundle deal to help you get a fresh start for 2021. Our webinars cover mental health, home ergonomics, tips for working during COVID-19, and more. Get the webinar bundle for yourself or for your whole organization! The next live session is Setting Up Your Home Office with Ergonomics and it will be taking place on February 17th from 1:00 to 2:00pm EST. Get $20.00 off your next live session or the bundle when you sign up. For more information, you can contact us at gowanhealth@gowanhealth.com
  • Manager Mental Health Training is now running all year long! The next session takes place on February 23, 2021 from 9:00am to 1:00pm EST. Registrations are now open! To get a full list of dates or to get more information on our sessions, email gowanhealth@gowanhealth.com
  • Our virtual ergonomic assessments are now ON SALE for $100 off—for a limited time! Until April 30th, spend only $300 and get your employees the help they need to work comfortably at work or home. Make a referral here to take full advantage of the deal.
  • TIPS for Return to the Workplace Program– Consider enrolling in our new 4-session work-focused CBT program to assist you or your employees in having the strategies to successfully return to or stay at work.

For more on all we have to offer, contact us! We want to help make the difference in your healthy business!

Works Cited

Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO). (2013). MSD Prevention Toolbox: Part 3A- Getting Started,  http://www.wsib.on.ca/en/community/WSIB/230/ArticleDetail/24338?vgnextoid=8964e35c819d7210VgnVCM100000449c710aRCRD

CCOHS, Work-Related MSDs, By OSH answers Fact Sheet, (2005)  https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/rmirsi.html

Ministry of Labour, Provincial Health and safety Compliance initiatives in 2019-2020, https://www.ontario.ca/page/workplace-compliance-initiatives?mc_cid=5a84c08c0e&mc_eid=deaa472ae9#section-1

Ministry of Labour Focusing on Musculoskeletal Hazards in the Workplace, What you Need to Know, by Nancy Gowan, 2019,  https://gowanhealth.com/en/ministry-of-labour-focusing-on-musculoskeletal-hazards-in-the-workplace-what-you-need-to-know/  

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