Repetitive Strain Injury: Prevention and Coping
Ergonomic disorders are the fastest growing category of work-related illness.
According to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, musculoskeletal disorders are the country's most costly category of workplace injuries and illnesses. In addition to spending $20 billion annually on workers' compensation costs due to RSIs, the United States spends another $100 billion on lost productivity, employee turnover, and other indirect expenses.
Many of you sit at a computer day in and out. While you may not be at a dangerous construction site or driving a truck without proper rest, repetitive strain injury (RSI) can cause debilitating injuries that affect your quality of life and ability to earn an income.
In simple medical terms:
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is defined as a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) stemming from prolonged repetitive hand movements resulting in damaged muscles, tendons, and nerves in the neck, shoulder, forearm, and hand to cause pain, weakness, and numbness.
Fine hand movements, repeated thousands upon thousands of times strain the muscles and tendons causing microscopic tears. Injured muscles tend to contract, decreasing the range of motion. The sheaths covering delicate tendons become less lubricated resulting in inflammation and pinched nerves. Poor posture leads to severe neck and back injuries. Staring at a computer screen can lead to eye strain. Repetitive reaching for a mouse can lead to arm and neck strain and spinal asymmetry.
RSI is not the same as carpal tunnel. Carpel tunnel is a form of RSI. Repetitive strain injury can also be caused by repetitive factory work or being on the line type of jobs such as repeatedly turning knobs or drilling screws, playing a piano, kneading bread, meat packing, foodservice, knitting, some farming practices, writing, any job that has repetitive wrist action.
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Hands on Protection
According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand injuries account for more than one million ER visits by workers per year in the United States.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an estimated 110,000 workdays were lost because hand and finger lacerations.
Of almost 3,000 injury cases seen in a 7-year period at George Washington University ER revealed that two out of three injured workers were young, under age 40. More than half of the injured workers were ethnic minorities, mostly Hispanic. The leading cause of injury was contact with cutting or piercing objects, most often pieces of metal, razors, knives, power tools, and nails. Fingers and hands were the most injured among the construction workers with about 33 percent requiring ER visits. About 15 percent of these injuries were amputations, partial amputations, crushes, and fractures.
Construction companies are spending much more to cover the costs of hand injuries than they would pay to equip workers properly with gloves.
Put the gloves on
Wearing gloves decreases the risk of hand injury from cuts and punctures, but may not protect from crushing injuries, fractures, or amputations.
Traditional bulky leather and polymer workhorse gloves are being replaced by a new generation of lighter weight, ergonomically designed gloves that are more accepted by workers. Gloves coated with natural rubber or polyurethane are becoming more acceptable for a variety of tasks because they are easier to work in and will be worn longer.
Gloves that offer sponge nitrile coatings with a cut-resistant liner of yarns such as Kevlar or high performance polyethylene offer both oily grip and cut resistance which work well for handling sheet metal or other materials that present multiple hazards.
Gloves protect against chemical hazards such as cement dust, wet cement, and other toxic substances.
No more excuses
Neither the construction industry nor construction workers have excuses for not wearing gloves. The construction industry has to embrace preventative injuries and explaining to workers why they need to wear gloves. Reducing hand injuries saves money in medical expenses, saves unnecessary pain and suffering to the worker, as well as, lost time on the job for both the industry and the worker. Management needs to be better trained about glove selection and pass along the knowledge and enforcement to the workers.
The Terminator Terminates Workers Comp Bills
California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed two workers compensation bills that would’ve benefited Californians who receive workers compensation.
According to the Business Insurance website, S.B. 1717 would have doubled permanent disability benefit payments over a three year period to increase for the number of weeks injured workers receive benefits. Schwarzenegger found the bill too costly.
S.B. 1115 would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sex or genetic predisposition when doctors apportion a claim's medical causation for the purpose of determining an employer's liability for permanent disability awards. Schwarzenegger felt the intention was good but unnecessary.
Workers Compensation Insurer Lowers Rates
A workers’ compensation insurance provider in Kentucky – the Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance, has lowered its rates by 6.7 percent for numerous industries throughout the state. The insurer says that medical costs are controlled better as is promoting workplace safety.
Let’s hope that workers’ compensation benefits will not be cut as a result and that other states follow suit.
Source: Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance
Is Hiring a Disabled Person Considered a Disability?
One of the myths that employers perceive is that hiring a person with a disability will increase workers' compensation costs and insurance rates. That is a myth.
Another is that a person with disabilities vacates the job more frequently. That is another myth. People with disabilities spend a longer time on the job.
Nearly 22 million Americans who make up 13 percent of the population of working age have a disability. However, people with disabilities are only half as likely as others to be employed. Federal laws aimed at helping those with disabilities integrate into the workplace have included the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.
Job seekers need to be honest but not go overboard in offering information on their disability. The employer needs to keep questions focused on job performance. Job seekers should stress their skills, ambition, education, and put their best positive self forward.