When you think about workplace injuries what do you envision? Slipping on a wet floor? Being hurt in an engine explosion or motor vehicle accident? The largest single category of workplace injuries is repetitive stress injuries (RSI) that occur from repeating one motion or task over a long period of time. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are over 100 kinds of job–induced RSIs, and U.S. workers to have a one in eight chance of developing one of them over their lifetime.
Repetitive activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to cause an RSI, although jobs that require the use of heavy tools, frequent lifting, or reaching can result in this type of injury. The most frequent RSIs currently, however, is due to the use of computers in the workplace. Working on a keyboard all day at high speed with few breaks can lead to hand and arm conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and bursitis. Cashiers, assembly line workers, drivers, mechanics, and other jobs that require you to stay in one position and repeat a motion over and over can cause an RSI.
Documenting Your RSI
Many people mistakenly think that their symptoms are just “part of the job” or “part of the aging process.” These types of injuries, however, can cause severe pain and disability and may affect your ability to do your job and perform everyday tasks. Workers’ compensation is available to help in these situations.
There are a few steps you should take to build your case:
- Pay attention to early warning signs of a developing RSI. These can include dull aches or pains in digits or limbs, tingling or numbness, weakness, loss of grip or coordination, and fatigue. Symptoms may be intermittent at first.
- Keep a log of the symptoms you experience when they occur and what activities you were performing at or before the discomfort began.
- Notify your employer and complete the necessary workers’ compensation paperwork as soon as you suspect an RSI – although the exact date of this type of injury may be difficult to pinpoint, there are time limits for filing. Laws prohibit employers from penalizing workers for filing claims so don’t be concerned that you are jeopardizing your job by doing so.
- Seek medical care as soon as your symptoms are noticeable and begin to impact your ability to perform necessary tasks.
If you believe you may be suffering from an RSI, it’s best to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to find out how to best pursue your claim.