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Workplace RSI

Today I read an article What People With RSI Need From Employers by RSI Action; the UK’s Repetitive Strain Injury Charity.  I discussed the article with one of our in-house DSE assessors and asked him “What would you say the estimated response time is for employees to report RSI symptoms?” Although this figure can vary significantly from person to person, and there are of course a number of people who will report their issues at the soonest moment, it seems that some office workers claim to experience RSI symptoms for up to a year before reporting their issue. Apparently some physiotherapists even relate how people can experience RSI for years before speaking up.

If you have read our post ‘Do we have a compensation culture?‘ however, then perhaps you’ll ponder whether there remains a stigma about RSI within both the workplace and indeed society as a whole; many people have admitted to having felt fearful how they would be perceived by others, including their managers and their colleagues too. Perhaps it is due to this apparent ‘stigma’ that numerous people “suffer in silence” for extended periods of time before acknowledging the need to report their pains. Evidently some have even worried that this declaration could eventually, particularly under the current economic climate, affect their employment at the organisation.

Have you ever worried about reporting RSI symptoms?

This perceived stigma may indeed be a reason for “end users” choosing to ignore symptoms of workplace RSI – but employers also do have their concerns too. RSI Action stated that reasons for employers seemingly ignoring RSI could include:

“fear of disclosure and keeping the accident book “tidy”, seeking to avoid potential litigation, embarrassment and guilt at having caused someone to become ill, which affects the image of the company, annoyance and irritation because targets are not being met, thereby inviting criticism from a higher tier of management”.

How do you feel about your employees reporting possible RSI symptoms?

Obviously we feel that prevention is far better than a cure, but if there is a problem, surely it is far better to openly recognise it? After all ignoring the situation will not make is disappear. Recently we conducted a poll ‘Are Workplace Ergonomics an Investment?‘ after wondering whether some employers consider ergonomics within the workplace simply a method of complying with health and safety law rather than an investment in the true health and well-being of their organisation’s biggest asset – their people. As HWS has been in the business since 1997, we’ve witnessed first-hand how attitudes regarding ergonomics within the workplace have changed and how it has been taken much more seriously in recent years.

Perhaps the perceived WRULD ‘stigma’ is therefore unjustified and this is an issue we all need to face? Delivering a strong message from the top of an organisation’s hierarchy and filtering this through all departmental levels may help ensure that RSI (and Work Related Upper Limb Disorder) is not just ignored but indeed recognised and, more importantly, prevented. Integrating this approach into an organisation’s culture could be challenging, but one of the many ways to communicate it collectively is perhaps to provide adequate training. Encouraging suitable staff to undertake a professional DSE training course can promote a pro-active attitude within the workplace and enable designated individuals to carry out suitable regular reviews. An even more progressive step would be to educate IT departments in the indisputable benefits of creating an ‘Easy Reach Zone’ thereby influencing their selection of elementary input devices and also the positioning of hardware on the office desk to reduce the need for repetitive actions. Then, of course, there is the software ……but that is another subject for discussion altogether!

Perhaps this strategic approach is a first step to tackling the issue of RSI at all levels?  Worth a thought?


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