Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a general label that the legal and medical profession use when they refer to injury sustained at work by frequent and repetitive movements of the hand, wrist and arm. RSI is a major problem in the workplace costing business millions of pounds every year in lost production and an estimated 5.4 million workdays.
These can vary. Typical symptoms involve the upper limbs including numbness, tingling, sharp pain, dull ache, weakness, loss of grip and burning. Dull aches/pains can also be found in the shoulders, back or neck. Restricted movement of limbs can render people incapable of carrying out the simplest of tasks, at home or at work. Other related conditions are Trigger Finger, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Vibration White Finger and Tenosynovitis. A lack of accurate diagnosis and access to appropriate treatment can further exacerbate the condition.
What's the damage?
The repeated physical movements or sustained static loading to a limb results in damage to tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissue. The injury may prevent a person from returning to work causing financial stress and strain on the individual and his/her family.
Who is at risk?
It is not just keyboard workers. Any work that involves repetitive movements of the upper limbs are at risk. The risk is increased if the job involves static or awkward postures for long periods, forceful gripping and twisting movements, poorly designed workstations and organisation. Below is a small selection of workers who are at risk.
The courts will take into account that your health, livelihood, family and social life can be adversely affected. You may be damaged for life. You may have to change jobs or in fact may be unable to obtain employment. Below are two actual claims that have gone to court and won.
Here are just a few case examples:
51-Year-old Legal Secretary awarded £87,056.69
The claimant brought a claim against a firm of solicitors for the repetitive strain injury sustained to her hands and wrists during her employment between 1986 and 1995. The claimant suffered muscular pain in her right forearm and wrist, and was unable to continue with typing due to her condition. She was required to work long hours, had to meet urgent deadlines, poor posture, insufficient breaks and job rotation. The defendant was found to be negligent.
The claimant suffered a stabbing pain in her shoulders whilst working on the keyboard and pain from her wrists to her fingertips when typing. She had difficulty shopping and lifting heavy objects and writing. Her employment was restricted as her injury was permanent.
Her claim for injuries amounted to £7,300, and the balance related to loss of earnings and earning capacity.
28-Year-Old Bank Clerk received £243,792
The claimant, a 28-year-old woman, received £243,792 for repetitive strain injury/De Quervain's tenovaginitis, she sustained whilst working for the defendant bank as a cashier.
The claimant's work required her to spend approximately 75 per cent of her working day using a keyboard on a REM cheque processing machine which involved intensive keyboard use adopting a posture whereby she held her right wrist in ulnar deviation with her right thumb extended out to the side. She was left with continued and extensive pain and was unable to continue working. Medical experts were of the opinion that the claimant's condition was unlikely to improve without further surgery which was not a recommended course of action.
The defendant originally disputed all aspects of the claimant's allegations, however after a three-day trial it conceded that it had been in breach of its statutory duties contrary to the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 SI 1992/2792 in failing to undertake a workstation risk assessment and failing to plan the claimant's activities to introduce breaks and changes in activities.
The claim for the injuries amounted to £8,500 and the other substantial losses were in relation to her loss of earnings past and future and other out of pocket expenses.