Protecting Your Employees from Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace

Stress Injuries

Did you know that workers’ comp covers you as an employer when one of your employees develops a repetitive stress injury (also known as a repetitive strain injury) in the workplace? Most employers are familiar with this coverage addressing injuries or accidents, such as falling from a height, as well as illnesses due to constantly being exposed to toxic substances like asbestos. However, many employers are not aware of repetitive stress injuries.

Employers and employees need to be educated on repetitive stress injuries and how to prevent them. We provide you with information on the types of repetitive strain injuries, their causes, symptoms, and risk factors.

Types of Repetitive Stress Injuries

The four most common types of repetitive stress injuries are tennis elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis, bursitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Not all of these injuries occur over time in the workplace. For example, some are related to the repetitive movements made in certain sports outside of work.

Causes of Repetitive Stress Injuries

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. However, work-related factors that give rise to, or exacerbate, this condition include typing (when the wrist is overextended and the movement is repeated), vibrations from working with power tools, and how the wrists are positioned when using the mouse and keyboard.

Bursitis comes in different forms, given that the body contains more than 150 bursae. Rotator cuff tendinitis affects the shoulder and is often the result of swimming, pitching, or tennis and may require surgery.

Tennis elbow occurs from constant twisting motions of the forearm tendons, such as when opening a door. Other causes of tennis elbow are sports (like swimming, golfing, racquet, and tennis), and work-related factors such as jobs requiring repeated use of hammers and screwdrivers, or constant computer use.

Symptoms of Repetitive Stress Injuries

Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are usually experienced in the neck and shoulders (e.g. rotator cuff tendonitis), elbows and forearms (e.g. tennis elbow), arms, legs, and hips (bursitis), and hands and wrists (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome). Initially, symptoms may be mild, but they progress in intensity over time. Treatment is often insufficient to permit the employee to continue the movements that led to RSI and can curtail many activities as well as gradually affect other parts of the body.

Key symptoms are pain, tenderness, and swelling. The level of pain can vary in intensity. Additional symptoms that are generally encountered are throbbing, numbness, tingling, weakness, stiffness, and sensitivity to temperature (hot and cold).

Risk Factors for Repetitive Stress Injuries

A prior injury places an employee at increased risk for RSI. A major risk is the type of work being done when it results in repetitive movements causing stress and strain. The type of job is also a risk factor, with cooks, drivers, cleaners, and construction workers having the most danger of developing RSI.

Specific activities that are known to increase the risk of RSI are a lack of physical exercise, lifting heavy items, abnormal postures like keeping the arms above the head for prolonged periods, staying in the same position, and repetitive movements.

Having workers compensation in nj will reduce the risk and financial burden associated with RSI in employees. Employers are required by law to have workers compensation in NJ. Educate your employees and review work factors that may give rise to RSI.

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