Avoiding Repetitive Strain Injuries

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No doubt safety represents a big investment at your company. You likely spend large amounts of time and resources preventing accidents. But not all work-related injuries come from sudden mechanical failures or dangerous employee mishaps. Some are the result of the normal course of business: workers doing the same tasks over and over again, eventually taking a toll on their bodies.

These types of injuries are called repetitive strain injuries (or repetitive stress injuries). This category includes things like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

It may seem trivial compared to the specter of large machines crushing people’s limbs, but RSIs can just as well lead to missed work days, sap productivity and result in workers’ comp claims.

With that in mind, here are four steps you can take to minimize these repetitive strain issues:

Proper Procedure

Repetitive injuries become a problem when workers are forced to make uncomfortable actions repetitively. One way to prevent this: Make sure all tasks adhere to a specific procedure designed to minimize the physical impact.

Make sure these procedures are designed properly and they are in place throughout the company. Also, put adequate training in place to make sure workers know what they are supposed to do.

Don’t Cut Corners

Now that you have proper procedures in place, it’s important to make sure they are followed. The tasks that cause repetitive strain happen over extended periods of time. That means the proper procedure must happen all the time. If things get sloppy, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and open the door to RSIs.

Perform frequent checks and reminders to make sure procedures are being followed. Also, don’t put unreasonable time pressures on employees that force them to abandon safe habits to boost productivity.

Regular Breaks

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): Repetitive stress comes from doing things repeatedly. If you can break up that repetition, it decreases the chance the work will take a physical toll. So, build breaks into the routine, even if it’s just a brief stretch or a five-minute pause in the action.

This precaution doesn’t necessarily have to halt production, however. These breaks can also take the form of work rotations. To lower the odds of repetitive stress, you can keep workers from having to do the same task repeatedly for long periods of time. If there are multiple jobs in your facility, move workers around throughout the day, so they don’t end up doing the same thing over and over for hours at a time.

Respond Early to Symptoms

Repetitive stress doesn’t appear like a broken leg – it isn’t a sudden event. It develops slowly and worsens over time. Often, early signs are subtle and by the time an employee reports the issue, significant damage has been done.

Educate employees about the early signs of repetitive stress. Make sure there’s no stigma attached to reporting a problem or requesting a different workload in response to developing symptoms. And facilitate employees getting professional help if an RSI begins to develop – intervening early can prevent larger problems down the road.

For more details on how to improve safety, turn to DHR, Houston’s premier staffing agency. We can help you build the safest and most productive workforce, setting you up for sustainable long-term growth. Contact DHR today for more information.

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