February 28 is RSI DAY
Work shouldn’t hurt
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day is February 29th because it’s the only non-repetitive day of the year. We observe the day on February 28th in non-leap years. It’s the ideal date to raise awareness of repetitive strain injuries.
Normal movements we do at work like lifting, twisting and reaching shouldn’t hurt. But when these ordinary movements are repeated, performed awkwardly or with force, that’s when it can lead to pain which can be persistent and sometimes irreversible.
RSI is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, and other soft tissues. They are caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Symptoms can also include discomfort, numbness, tingling, weakness, and restricted movement that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Do you have back pain? Sore or numb hands? An aching shoulder or elbow? Well, you aren’t alone. In fact, according to Stats Canada about 15% of Canadians has been affected by a repetitive strain injury (RSI) that was serious enough to limit their normal activities. And a 2017 report of the WSIB indicated that 44% of workplace injuries reported were for sprains and strains.
RSI’s and retail work
Many of the injuries experienced by retail workers are Musculoskeletal Disorders. These are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Some examples of an MSD are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome and tennis or golf elbow (epicondylitis). These may develop over a period of time from a variety of factors including overexertion, or repetitive awkward work.
Retail work and specifically grocery store work, can be physically demanding. Workers will handle thousands of items each day. Whether it be while stocking shelves, decorating bakery items, cashing out customers or prepping meat. These tasks involve a number of ergonomic risk factors including significant repetition, placing the body in awkward positions and standing in one place for long periods of time. With the presence of these risk factors comes an increased potential for injury. Especially RSIs.
MSD Warning Signs
Do you find yourself:
- making your own modification to your workstation or tools?
- wearing splints or supports to get through your shift.
- massaging your muscles or joints or shaking your limbs.
- complaining about or reporting pain, discomfort, or fatigue.
- Avoiding certain parts of your job because it hurts.
If you’ve said yes to a number of these, you could be suffering from an RSI.
It may be possible to relieve some of your symptoms by modifying tasks. Think about your work environment. What do you think is causing the problem? Is there a modification you can make to that task? You may not be able to stop doing something entirely but even a small change can sometimes make a difference.
Can you reduce the amount of time you are doing that activity?
Can you take short breaks to stretch?
If you believe your RSI is caused by activity at work, then you should speak to someone on your health and safety committee and/or contact your union representative who can put you in touch with a health and safety representative. You should also speak to your employer.
If we can convince employers to implement injury prevention with a focus on musculoskeletal injuries and ergonomic concerns, then it stands to reason that there will also be fewer reported cases of work related injuries. With a decrease in injuries comes improved morale and reduced compensation costs. A win, win situation.
Some other work-related activities that lend themselves to repetitive stress injuries include:
- assembly line work
- polishing, sanding, and painting
- pipe setting
- any overhead work
- sawing and cutting
- stocking shelves and packing
- playing musical instruments, and
- working as a mechanic.
Some steps to help prevent repetitive strain in the workplace
- Take your breaks and stretch when you can.
- Change your position to avoid overuse of any one body part.
- Rotate your posture throughout your shift.
- Minimize awkward postures by adjusting work heights, decreasing reaching distances and organizing work stations.
- Modify your work area to avoid pressing against hard or sharp surfaces.
- Use appropriate tools such as carts or hoists to limit high exertion.
- Reduce the size of loads and carrying long distances.
- Report pains and strains to your supervisor before pain becomes severe.
Need help identifying or assessing risks in your workplace? Ask your union representative or contact the Local Union’s Health and Safety Department. We can help put controls in place before injuries occur.
Download our RSI awareness poster and flyer here: https://ufcw175.com/downloads/health-safety/
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has some good information on RSIs and awareness.
The British Columbia Compensation Board has a great educational guide about RSIs for workers