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February 18, 2008
International RSI Awareness Day - Help prevent Repetitive Stain Injuries
February 29, 2008 will mark the 8th International RSI Awareness Day - a day set aside each year to focus attention on repetitive strain
injuries.  Held on the last day of February - the only "non-repetitive" day on the calendar, RSI Awareness Day is observed on February
29th in non-leap years.  

On this day, workers, union representatives, health and safety professionals, health care practitioners and others take the opportunity
to help raise awareness about RSIs and the need for action aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and compensation.

Catherine Fenech of Toronto, an injured worker, launched RSI Awareness Day in 2000.  The goals are to raise public attention and as well as corporate and
government action to reduce RSI injuries, which have been on the rise throughout the 1990s and which show no sign of reduction.

What are RSIs?
Repetitive strain injuries, also known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), is an umbrella term to describe a family of painful disorders
affecting tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands.  These disorders can be caused by work
activities that are frequent and repetitive, or activities with awkward postures.  WMSDs are a serious occupational health concern across the world and are
recognized as leading causes of significant human suffering, loss of productivity, and economic burdens on society.

Cause
WMSDs are associated with work patterns that include:
  • fixed or constrained body positions
  • continual repetition of movements
  • force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist
  • a pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements

Heat, cold and vibration also contribute to the development of WMSD.  Generally, WMSDs commonly occur as a result of a combination of these factors.

Prevention
A fundamental principle of occupational health and safety is that hazards are best eliminated at the source.  In the case of WMSDs, the prime source of hazard
is the repetitiveness of work.  Prevention must aim at eliminating the repetitiveness of the work by proper job design.  Where this is not possible, preventive
strategies such as good workplace layout, tool and equipment design, and proper work practices should be considered.  It is important to recognize these
disorders early because medical treatments become less effective the longer these injuries go on.

Preventive and control measures, in order to be truly effective, require significant involvement on the part of the workers, their representatives, and management
to improve occupational health and safety.  Since passing ergonomics legislation in 1998, the Province of British Columbia has seen a 19 per cent drop in
RSIs and a 40 per cent reduction in money spent in RSI lost time claims.  BC’s experience demonstrates that enforced legislation works.

Promoting Awareness
The CAW must continue to emphasize the need for ergonomic regulations, justice and dignity for injured workers and respectful accommodation, CAW
President Buzz Hargrove urged in a recent letter to CAW local union presidents.  

Click here to learn more about repetitive strain injuries   [PDF]
 
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