Repetitive Strain Injuries or RSI is the term given to an injury that is caused by the overuse or excessive use of muscles, tendons, or nerves within the body over a significant period of time. RSI can occur in many parts of the body, but typically in the fingers, hands, wrists, and elbows. Unfortunately, some workers sustain an RSI injury in the workplace, just by doing their normal work duties for prolonged periods, without rest or different work.
These work-related injuries are on the rise amongst baristas due to the repetitive stress on wrists and elbows when making coffee, with a 2013 study revealing that 47% of the baristas surveyed were suffering from RSI directly attributed to their jobs. In this article we take a look at RSI’s in the workplace and whether you can make a claim for such an injury.
A repetitive stress injury, or occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) is a type of injury common to the fingers, hands, wrists, and elbows. It is caused by the repetitive movements or awkward postures. Symptoms include, pain, swelling, numbness, and pain and weakness in the effected joints. Common types of RSI’s include:
- Golfers elbow;
- Tennis elbow; and
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
Certain occupations may be more vulnerable to developing an RSI due to the fast and repetitive nature of the duties involved. Some occupations at risk include:
- Office work – typing and clerical duties
- Process work – assembly line and packing
- Piece work – sewing
- Manual work – bricklaying and carpentry
- Hospitality/Tourism – chef/cooks, baristas, housekeepers.
In Queensland, workers in the accommodation industry seem to be most at risk with RSI type injuries in the 2011 financial year equating to 50% of the accommodations industry’s total workers compensation claims.
If you have suffered an RSI as a result of your work duties then you may be able to bring a claim against your employer for negligence. An RSI is different from a point in time injury because this type of injury has occurred over a period of time and is a result of repetitive movements.
Depending on the circumstances of how your injury occurred you may be able to argue that your employer placed you at a foreseeable risk of injury through subjecting you to repetitive tasks and not allowing for:
- frequent breaks or adequate time in between shifts;
- rotation of duties;
- good ergonomics.
If you believe you are starting to develop an RSI then you should let your employer know immediately so that steps may be taken to identify the possible cause and to implement changes into your work duties. You should also lodge a claim for benefits with WorkCover Queensland so that medical expenses can be paid for as well as your wages should you require time away from work for treatment.