February 24, 2006
International RSI Awareness Day - Help prevent Repetitive Stain Injuries
February 28, 2006 will mark the 7th International RSI Awareness Day - a day set aside each year to focus attention on repetitive strain
injuries.  Held on the last day of February, it is the only "non-repetitive" day on the calendar and is officially observed on February 29th
(in non-leap years, RSI Awareness Day is observed on February 28th.)  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.

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.

Promoting Awareness
This year many events will call for an ergonomic regulation similar to that passed in British Columbia.  Since passing ergonomics
legislation in 1998, B.C. 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.


Related story:  Ergonomics on Rail - One worker makes a difference
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