A repetitive stress injury (RSI) is caused by the repetitive use of a body part. The injury often occurs to the hands and involves vibrations or other stressors. Many ESB and former Telecom workers who had to use kango hammers and lift heavy weights have suffered these types of injuries.
Workers do not, as was commonly previously believed, have to be doing the same thing all day long every day for the RSI to be actionable. Much physical work is not repetitive per se but does cause cumulative wear on a particular body part over time. Also, a worker’s job and age don’t always factor into whether a worker develops an RSI.
All orthopaedic injuries can result in repetitive stress, but if a construction worker exhibits any of the following conditions it may be an RSI.
- Trigger finger
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Hearing loss
- Tendonitis of the tendons that control thumb movement
- Chronic back pain
- Slipped disc
Employees suffering from these conditions typically argue that the degeneration of their body parts could have been prevented by modifying their work tasks. The employees allege that their employers should have made these modifications because they knew or should have known that workers were suffering from RSI, but they chose to forego making modifications or even warning workers about the potential health risk that could be associated with their job’s duties.
Rail road workers, electrical workers and construction workers of all types are exposed daily to risk factors that are generally recognised to cause orthopaedic cumulative trauma injuries. The rail road industry has known for many years about these risk factors yet it has often not taken sufficient steps to reduce these hazards. Some of the more common culprits are awkward posture or positioning, standing still for an extended time, poorly designed equipment, repetition of movement, vibrations, exposures to the same temperatures, bending over and a lack of mandatory rotation of job duties.
Any job in these industries has the potential to lead to an RSI. However, some of the more common causes are walking on ballets (the raised space on which the tracks lie) constantly lifting excessive weights, repairing rail road tracks and operating kango hammers and drills.
Employers should conduct an ergonomic assessment of the work tasks that have caused multiple injuries. Companies have accepted that they must review all injury claims to analyse which task is causing the RSI so that it can be changed. The failure to conduct a thorough ergonomic evaluation of the work place puts employees at risk of permanent disability.
Most ergonomic experts agree that the science involves designing work place tools and equipment to make them more user-friendly and safe for workers. Changing the way work tasks are done is considered and administrative change, changing tools or equipment is an engineering change. For example, a change in seat design for bus drivers has helped with back pain and other occupational injuries.
Repetitive strain injuries are common place in Ireland and if an injured person does not seek legal advice their ability to recover compensation can be severely restrictive. It is important that the injury is diagnosed correctly and that expert engineering advice is obtained to prove that the injury was caused as a result of the negligence of your employer.
If you feel that you have suffered a repetitive strain injury you should immediately contact Liam Moloney, Solicitor in Naas, today on 045 898000 or simply onto our website at www.moloneysolicitors.ie for further information.