Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day was established by local injured worker activists at the initiative of Catherine Fenech, and is now the occasion internationally on the last day of each February (the only non-repetitive day on the calendar) to focus attention on a serious workplace health issue, a debilitating condition that limits normal daily activities and causes persistent pain.
The 2017 18th Annual RSI Awareness Day Conference in Toronto will be held Tuesday Feb. 28th at the OPSEU Membership Centre, 31 Wellesley Street East. See also details of the RSI Ergonomics Webinar presented from Sudbury.
What are RSIs? A real pain
Although many workers suffer from RSIs, these are “invisible” injuries, often poorly understood and those who have them all too often face accusations of malingering. Historically, gender bias has also affected the recognition of repetitive strain injuries. With the entry of women into the workforce, particularly office involving keyboarding or manufacturing work using tools designed for larger grip of the “average male” men, stereotyping by some physicians meant it was often dismissed as a “woman’s complaint”.
Repetitive strain injuries are soft-tissue injuries, also known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). The term covers a group of overuse injuries that affect the muscles, nerves and tendons of the neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, arms and hands. Some of the common MSDs are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff syndrome, epicondylitis (tennis elbow). They are commonly caused by repetitive or forceful actions or working in an awkward position. Insufficient time to heal, heat or cold, vibration, pace of work or stress are risk factors that can also play a role.
What action is needed?
Improved workplace preventive measures:
- Employers should modify job tasks, workspace and equipment to ensure the work is physically and mentally comfortable and effective (ergonomic design)
- They should provide effective employee safety training on ergonomic hazards
- The Ontario government should implement ergonomic regulations to ensure employers take these necessary steps, rather than rely on voluntary compliance with guidelines and Ministry of Labour inspection blitzes. See OFL’s statement “Ergonomic Regulations are Needed to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries” (2014)
- 16th Annual RSI Awareness Day Conference, Toronto. 2015. “Observations of the Day” – summary of discussions, including responses to the 2014 IWH Study “Time trends in musculoskeletal disorders attributed to work exposures in Ontario using three independent data sources, 2004-2011”
- Ontario. Ministry of Labour. “Musculoskeletal Disorders / Ergonomics.” Toronto: The Ministry.
- Canadian Union of Public Employees. “Repetitive Strain Injuries.”
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. 2014. “Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs).” – fact sheet and guide to RSIs and prevention
- Institute for Work Health. 2013. “Risk of Repetitive Strain Different across Gender in Some Fields: Study.” At Work, no. 73.