What is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and can I claim compensation for it?


Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is now often called 'Work-Related Upper Limb Disorder' (WRULD). It's the term given to damage to your limbs, which could be work-related due to repeated use.

Should Injury RSI

What damage could I do through RSI/WRULD?

The limbs most frequently damaged from repeated and sustained use are the hands, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulders, neck and back.

Repetitive strains are graded by the amount of damage to muscle or tendon fibres:
  • Grade I strains (stretching of fibres without tearing)
  • Grade II injuries (partial muscle or tendon tearing)
  • Grade III injuries (complete tearing of muscle or tendon)

What are rotator cuff injuries?

'Rotator cuff' injury is among the most common instances of RSI/WRULD. Damage to the rotator cuff – 4 muscles which help move the shoulder joint – can cause substantial pain in the shoulder and even disability.

Rotator cuff muscles and tendons can be damaged by a number of causes, including degeneration through ageing, a fall on the shoulder and as a result of a previous acute injury.

However, research has found that chronic overuse, of the kind which comprises many types of work, can lead to potentially serious rotator cuff problems.

What jobs could put me at risk of RSI/WRULD?

There are many jobs in which you use the same muscles and joints repetitively. Perhaps the most obvious is manual labour; if you have to do a lot of regular digging, for example, your shoulders and back can be particularly subject to strain – which can have lasting effects.

If you're a sports professional you're also at risk, especially if your activity involves a lot of throwing or hitting. We've all heard the expression 'tennis elbow' – it's really tendonitis, another form of RSI/WRULD.

However, you're also at risk of RSI/WRULD even if your work is physically moderate and apparently untaxing.

For all desk workers – from secretaries, counter staff and call-centre personnel to board directors – repetitive strain injury can be a real challenge.

Posture, seating height, back support, desk height and the placing of computer equipment all have to be very carefully considered at an early stage of your employment.

Even a display screen that forces your head to adopt an unnatural angle can put strain on your neck, or a chair that doesn't support your forearm when you use a mouse or keyboard, can leave you prone to RSI/WRULD.

There are other sedentary jobs which can put you at risk. If you are in retail or related work – at a supermarket checkout, say, or in a petrol station kiosk or on a passport control desk – persistent repetition of the same action day after day can cause damage to the limbs you're most frequently using.

So what are the responsibilities of my employer?

Clearly it is the duty of every company to take proper risk assessments of working conditions for all members of staff.

Office desks and chairs should be of the right height, position and quality to ensure their occupants are comfortable during the many hours they spend at them.

Chairs, in particular, are crucial – a cheap chair can leave some users with such poor posture, over such lengthy periods of time, that RSI/WRULD becomes inevitable.

What of desk or checkout equipment? Tills, computer screens, mice and keyboards should be so placed as to provide a naturally comfortable working position which imposes no hint of strain on the user.

Employers should also make sure their staff have sufficient time away from their desks or checkouts. Keeping you at your workstation for hours on end with no respite break is not only potentially bad for you, but ultimately unproductive for your boss.

What steps can I take if I develop RSI/WRULD due to my boss's oversight?

By law your employer must legally provide a safe working environment for its employees. As such, you can make a claim against your employer if because of their failings you suffer repetitive strain injury.

How can I claim compensation for my injury?

If you or a member of your family has suffered RSI/WRULD through no fault of your own, please talk to a Personal Injury or Industrial Disease expert to find out how they might be able to help you make a claim for RSI/WRULD.

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