Industrial Disease

Repetitive Strain Injury Claims

Many occupations involve carrying out the same activities and movements over the course of a full shift. If every shift is the same this can lead to soft tissue damage and painful injury.

Examples of these types of conditions include:

  • Cumulative Back Injuries caused by repetitive lifting and carrying.
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) caused by continual use of specific muscles.
  • Work Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULD) of the hands, wrists, arms etc.

It is important to recognise these conditions do not necessarily involve a single moment of injury - such as pulling a muscle when picking up a heavy object - but instead develop over time when carrying out activities which are not immediately harmful.

If you have developed sypmtoms of repetitive strain injury resulting from repetitive tasks at work, you may be entitled to make a claim. Contact our industrial disease solicitors today on 0161 446 1122 for a free, no obligation discussion of your case.

How does RSI develop?

RSI is caused by repetitive movement of the same muscles over a long period of time. It can occur in all kinds of occupations, from heavy lifting and manual handling, to RSI in the wrists and fingers from frequent typing, to WRULDs in television weather forecasters from pointing to the same parts of their map every day.

You might not feel pain immediately, but because the muscles are in constant use, the soft tissues are not given enough time to recover from each movement. Over time, this can lead to inflammation and injury.

This gradual build-up can mean it is difficult to diagnose a single specific cause of RSI. In jobs which involve repetitive movement of the part of the body in pain it becomes much simpler, however.

Common Causes of WRULDs

WRULDs are among the most common occupational RSI complaints, along with back and leg pain (especially including the knees) due to repetitive lifting activities.

In 2013-14, HSE figures show there were 87,000 new cases of WRULDs, affecting every joint and muscle in the upper limbs.

Some of the most frequent causes of WRULDs include:

  • Heavy and frequent lifting.
  • Order picking.
  • Keyboard/screen work.
  • Fast, intense handwriting.
  • Any kind of production line work.

Again, you will often know if your job is repetitive, and even the smallest of manual tasks can eventually lead to a WRULD if the same motion is repeated hundreds or thousands of times over the course of several shifts a week.

How to Prevent Workplace RSI

Employers are given lots of guidance by the HSE on how to prevent workplace RSI, including:

  • Equipment which helps avoid putting the body or limbs in stress positions.
  • Behavioural change e.g. correct lifting methods, frequent breaks from typing.
  • Regular rest breaks in all manual jobs to give the muscles a chance to recover.

However, some employers choose to ignore this advice, either because they are not aware of it, they do not want to spend on the equipment or protective clothing needed, or they do not want to lose productivity due to rest breaks and training sessions.

Where an employer could reasonably have taken action to prevent workplace RSI and did not do so, you could be entitled to make a claim against them if you suffer an injury to any part of your body as a result.

Negative Impacts of Cumulative Back Injuries

Cumulative back injuries, like other cases of RSI, develop slowly over time. By the time you recognise you have a serious problem with your back, the damage could already be considerable.

Back pain can be among the most distressing and debilitating of muscular pain. It can be sharp and agonising, or dull and persistent, and is often much more painful if you try to move.

As a result, cumulative back injuries can leave you unwilling or unable to move around easily. They may lead to you needing to take time off from work - especially from manual handling jobs involving heavy lifting.

The same is true of other RSI and WRULDs. Pain in your hands, fingers and wrists can affect your manual dexterity. In your shoulders and upper back it can create significant discomfort when trying to pick something up, from your weekly grocery shopping to your own children.

In the lower body, RSI injuries can make it painful to walk or even to stand. Again, you may find the pain worse when trying to bend at the knees to pick something up, as well as when trying to relax your legs in bed at night to fall asleep.

Possible Treatments for RSI, WRULDs and Cumulative Back Injury

RSI affects soft tissue including the muscles, nerves and tendons. It is often painful but can also present as numbness, tingling or an increased incidence of cramp.

You may notice swelling, and you may initially only feel discomfort or other symptoms during the repetitive activity itself, which gradually becomes more persistent or even constant.

Treatment can range from late-stage preventative measures like changing the way you perform certain tasks, to improving your comfort by relieving stress or adjusting your workplace temperature.

Direct treatment for the persistent symptoms can include painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, support bandages and strapping, or lots of rest and physiotherapy.

How Pabla Can Help

Employers have a reasonable duty of care to prevent you from being exposed to workplace activities so repetitive they can result in cumulative injuries to your back, upper limbs, lower limbs or any other part of your body.

Where an employer has failed to take reasonable action to protect you against these injuries, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim. Especially if your quality of life has been severely affected by the pain of RSI or by limitations to your muscles' range of movement.

Remember pain is not the only symptom - you may also have a legitimate claim if you have suffered a loss of sensation, non-painful phantom sensations like pins and needles or tingling, or if you regularly get cramp you think may be caused by RSI.

To find out more about your chances of a successful claim, or to start proceedings against an employer, call Pabla & Pabla Solicitors today on 0161 446 1122.

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