Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is defined as ‘an injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions.’ Repetitive strain injury can also be called non-specific upper limb pain or work-related upper limb disorder and can lead to pain in the tendons, nerves and muscles. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, RSI costs employers in the UK almost £300 million a year due to sick pay and lost working time. You’re more at risk of RSI if you work in a job where you are carrying out repetitive motions, and the jobs most likely to put you at risk include:
- Nurses and paramedics
- Plumbers, painters and carpenters
- Plant and machine operatives
If you’ve suffered repetitive strain injury at work and you believe your employer is to blame then you could make a claim for personal injury compensation.
Should you be concerned about repetitive strain injury?
RSI should be a major concern for employers – a recent survey of small businesses showed that one in five staff suffered from musculoskeletal injuries. This can lead to time off work to recover, putting more pressure on other members of staff. Repetitive strain injury can affect you no matter what field of work you’re in and is just as common amongst office workers as it is amongst those working in factories. In fact there is legislation in place to protect office workers – health and safety law states that you must have at least 11 cubic metres of space and that your desk and chair must be set up in such a way as to minimise the risk of injury. If your employer fails to meet these obligations then you could find yourself in line to claim personal injury compensation if you suffer RSI as a result of their negligence.
Am I at risk of RSI?
Did you know that 73% of people who use computers at work suffer from some form of RSI? Typing without breaks and carrying out repetitive motions with your hands and wrists can lead to RSI that can be incredibly painful. RSI is a chronic condition which your doctor will often tell you there is no ‘cure’ for. Treatment normally comes in the form of taking time off, avoiding repetitive tasks and taking regular breaks, and in some cases physiotherapy or surgery may be required. Repetitive strain injury may make it difficult for you to do your job or even to carry out daily activities such as driving or preparing breakfast without experiencing pain in your hands, arms or wrists.
What can your employer do?
Ultimately it is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that your working environment is a safe one. This means they must make sure that there are enough staff working any particular shift and that you are able to take the rest breaks you are entitled to. You shouldn’t be expected to carry out long periods of repetitive tasks in a factory, office or other setting without a break, as this could lead to the development of a repetitive strain injury. If you feel that your employer has been negligent then you could make a claim for personal injury compensation within three years of your injury – and Accident Advice Helpline could help you. You could be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries but also for any time you have taken off work and loss of earnings you have suffered as a result. There are a few things both you and your employer can do to reduce your risk of RSI at work:
- Avoid repetitive or prolonged tasks, or try to take a short break every 30 minutes
- Use both your hands rather than carrying out repetitive tasks with just one hand
- Keep warm as cold muscles are less flexible and don’t extend fully
- Move closer to perform a task rather than stretching
- Ensure you’re wearing well-fitting clothes so you can move freely
These things can all reduce your risk, but if you notice any pain or symptoms it is important to report this as soon as possible, as RSI is easier to treat in its early stages. Once the pain starts to increase it can be present for 24 hours a day, making it much harder to treat.
How much compensation could you get for RSI?
The amount of compensation you could receive for a repetitive strain injury can vary depending on the severity of your RSI and the impact that your injuries have had on your life. For example if you have suffered RSI in your wrists from typing at work, you may need to take time off to recover but you may also find you’re unable to work the same, long shifts as you did prior to your injury. This can affect you and your family financially, impacting your future, and it’s something that Accident Advice Helpline will take into account when we look at your claim for personal injury compensation. You can be compensated for your loss of earnings as well as your pain and suffering, which is why it is well worth getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer within three years of your injury, to explore your options.
Available treatment for RSI
Treatment available for RSI usually involves a combination of the following:
- Short-term use of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
- Exercise, which can help to relieve symptoms
- Using elastic supports or cold packs
In severe cases, for example if you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery or steroid injections may be required. Complementary therapies may also help with symptoms, for example acupuncture and The Alexander Technique, but as these are generally unavailable on the NHS, you will need to pay for your own sessions.
Claiming compensation for RSI
The easiest way to find out if you could make a claim for RSI is to get in touch with Accident Advice Helpline. You can call us on 0800 689 5659 or on to find out more about making a no win no fee claim. With over 16 years’ experience, our expert personal injury advisors offer confidential, no-obligation advice, which could help you decide whether or not to proceed with a claim.