re computer use (below)
What will happen to you?
When you first begin to experience symptoms due to RSI you will
be unsure of what is happening to you. The symptoms initially can be quite mild twinges with a bit of numbness or tingling. However as the condition develops the pain increases until it is with
you for 24 hours, leading to weeks on end of pain and disability, reality sets in, usually confirmed by doctor’s diagnosis.
During this time, difficulty occurs in carrying out workplace tasks, domestic tasks, any hand-orientated hobbies have to be given up (sport, crafts etc.). Being off work on long-term sickness absence results in reduced salary, financial worry and stress fear of job loss, leading to depression, which in turn exacerbates pain levels, and the downward spiral of ill health begins.
Employees have a responsibility to report their injury once they realise what is happening, record the pain in the
(accident book), and pursue accurate diagnosis and treatment.
You must also ask for a risk assessment to be carried out at work, and plan
your home life by obtaining help from friends and family, if possible, to reduce the strain on
your hands and arms. RSI must not be ignored, you can’t wish it away, and you must get treatment and adjust your life to the condition.
It is important to note that working over the pain can cause further damage, the more chronic the condition the longer it takes to make a recovery, therefore the correct balance must be found.
Your workstation needs to be observed and measurements taken, as well as posture being assessed, talking to
you about any problems with equipment and posture, and about the volume of work
must be undertaken.
Back to Work
Consideration should be given to your physical and mental state
when embarking on a gradual return to work, with shorter hours increasing gradually. This rehabilitative approach means that some of
your work is being done, and your valued skills can be retained.
This may indicate a need for sickness absence policies to be rewritten, taking into account state benefits and salary payment.
Make sure “open channels” are established between yourself, line
managers, senior management, occupational health professionals, and human resources
officers. Each one of these has an important role to play, together with a helpful and supportive attitude from colleagues.
If trades union membership is established within your organisation learn from trades union safety representatives. A unionised workplace is a healthy
workplace. Be aware of the dangers and educate yourself to
achieve a positive health and safety culture within your
Who Can Help
There are many organisations that are able to help in this day and age. The Department of Work and Pensions’ Disabilities Adviser can arrange for the provision of an ergonomic assessment and equipment, and funding to pay for a support worker to assist the injured person. A wealth of advice is available from the Health and Safety Executive, and various web sites on the Internet. RSI help-lines are for people with RSI, their families and also for employers.
Costs to you, the employee
RSI and other long-term medical conditions can be an expensive business.
Costs to yourself include lost salary, medication and medical treatment expenses, and travel costs whilst obtaining treatment. In the event of a long-term illness people can lose their car, their home, and suffer breakdown of family relationships caused by the stress of their illness, leading to a downward spiral into poverty.
Reasons for employers ignoring RSI can include fear of disclosure and keeping the accident book “tidy”, seeking to avoid potential litigation, embarrassment and guilt at having caused someone to become ill, which affects the image of the company, annoyance and irritation because targets are not being met, thereby inviting criticism from a higher tier of management. RSI does not make it go away but makes things worse.
Computers: an introduction
to the RSI problems caused when using them.
Many jobs involve working with computers for long periods of time, but it is important that you sit in a way that does not harm your arms, back, hands, shoulders or neck. Your employer should help prevent discomfort and injury by ensuring your work station is set up properly.
If you get aches or pains you should tell your supervisor and/or your
union representative. You can avoid serious injury by taking action when you notice a problem, although it’s better to prevent injuries before they begin. There are simple steps that can be taken to stay healthy while working with a computer.
Setting up the workstation safely.
Under the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations, employers must minimise the risks of working with computers by making sure that workplaces are well designed and that workers know how to reduce risks.
- carry out a risk assessment of the workstation;
- provide properly set up computer workstations;
- organise your work so that health and safety risks - are minimised;
- provide training, information and guidance to computer users;
- provide a free eye and eyesight test and pay for glasses if they are needed for DSE work.
You can reduce the risk of injuries by:
- using your workstation correctly;
- taking regular breaks from the screen;
- adjusting your chair height to fit your workstation;
- reporting any injuries, such as eye strain or pain in the hands, arms or neck.
Computer screens (visual displays / monitors)
Problems caused by computer screens – also called visual display units (VDUs), monitors or display screen equipment (DSE) – are usually the result of improper use, rather than the screen itself.
There is no evidence that screens damage eyes, but long periods of working at a computer screen can cause discomfort. You must ensure the size of text and images on the screen are the right size for you and take regular breaks.
Injuries that may be caused by working with computers.
If your workstation is not set up properly, you may suffer from headaches caused by screen glare or bad posture.
Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) – also called repetitive strain injury (RSI) – occur when computer users get aches, pains and disorders after long periods of working with a computer.
Some jobs require employees to use computers outside of the office, so a laptop computer may be provided. Because of their small size it can be hard to establish a good fit between the
yourself and the laptop. This makes it more difficult to maintain good posture.
Carrying a laptop also increases back injuries and the risk of attack and theft, so it’s better to use a desktop computer whenever possible.
What can your employer do?
All employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The Display Screen Equipment regulations also require employers to perform a suitable risk assessment of computers – even for flexible and home workers – and take steps to control risks.
Negotiate a policy for working with computers. Refer to union guides for advice.
Make sure that risk assessments are thorough and correct. You have rights under
management regulations to be consulted by your employer about anything affecting
your health and safety, including new technology.
Make sure that you are provided with training and information on how to use their VDU equipment and workstation safely.
Make sure you know about your legal right to eye and eyesight tests.
Many jobs involve working with computers for long periods of time. It is important that you sit in a way that does not cause back problems and take regular screen breaks to prevent eye strain.
Computers in the workplace should be assessed using risk assessment procedures.
A poorly set-up workstation can lead to discomfort, back pain, work-related upper limb disorders or repetitve strain injury.
DSE regulations suggest a 5-10 minute screen break or change of activity every hour.
For information regarding
workplace legal claims see: