RSIs are a group of conditions characterised by pain, stiffness, or numbness resulting from repetitive movements and overuse of muscles, tendons, and nerves. These injuries can affect anyone, regardless of age or occupation, and can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life and productivity.
As we navigate through our daily tasks, especially in the age of technology where keyboards, mice, and touchscreens dominate our work environments, the risk of developing RSIs has become increasingly prevalent. Tasks such as typing, clicking, scrolling, and lifting may seem harmless on their own, but when performed repeatedly and without proper ergonomic considerations, they can lead to debilitating injuries.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (including RSIs) in the UK in 2019/20. These disorders accounted for 26% of all work-related ill health cases.
Certain occupations have a higher risk of RSIs due to the nature of their tasks. Office workers, particularly those who spend long hours typing on keyboards and using mice, are particularly susceptible. However, industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and construction also report significant incidences of RSIs due to repetitive motions and manual handling activities.
The cost of RSIs to businesses in terms of absenteeism, decreased productivity, and healthcare expenses is substantial. In 2019/20, the total cost of work-related musculoskeletal disorders to the UK economy was estimated at £5.6 billion.
The Legal Requirements:
Employers in the UK have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This includes taking measures to prevent and manage RSIs in the workplace. Failure to do so can result in legal repercussions and fines.
5 top tips for mitigating the risk of RSIs
- Ergonomic Workstations: Ensure that workstations are set up ergonomically, with adjustable chairs, proper keyboard and mouse placement, and monitor positioning at eye level to reduce strain on the neck and shoulders.
- Frequent Breaks: Encourage taking short, frequent breaks to rest and stretch muscles. Implementing the “20-20-20” rule—looking away from screens every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds—can help alleviate eye strain.
- Stretching Exercises: Incorporate simple stretching exercises into daily routines to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Focus on stretching the wrists, forearms, shoulders, and neck to target areas prone to RSIs.
- Proper Technique: Educate employees on proper typing, mousing, and lifting techniques to minimize strain on muscles and joints. Emphasise the importance of maintaining neutral wrist positions and avoiding excessive force.
- Workplace Culture: Foster a supportive workplace culture that prioritises employee health and well-being. Encourage open communication about discomfort or pain related to repetitive tasks, and provide resources for seeking assistance or ergonomic assessments.