EMPLOYERS and the government have been urged to take greater steps to protect workers from repetitive strain injury – after figures showed that 39,000 people in Yorkshire suffer from the condition.
A survey by the Health and Safety Executive said that the rate of RSI in Yorkshire – at 1.05 per 100 workers – was the third highest in Great Britain. The national average is 0.87 per 100 workers with London the lowest at 0.69 and the north-east highest at 1.24.
The HSE reported a sharp increase in the number of new cases reported nationally each year – from 93,000 in 2005-2006 to 115,000 in 2006-2007.
It said RSI now cost bosses almost £300m a year in lost working time, sick pay and administration. An estimated 3.5m working days were lost in 2006-2007 due to RSI – with each person taking an average 13 days off sick.
The findings have promoted the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists to call for greater action to tackle RSI.
Society spokeswoman Bronwyn Clifford said: “Many thousands of people in Yorkshire are suffering and employers are losing millions of pounds every year through RSI.
“This is totally unnecessary as RSI can often be avoided with advice on appropriate equipment and safe working practices from occupational health physiotherapists.”
The HSE figures showed that RSI was most prevalent among plumbers, carpenters and painters; nurses and paramedics; and plant and machinery operators. The lowest rates included estate agents, security guards, waiters and cleaners.
The society’s advice to combat RSI includes avoiding prolonged or repetitive tasks; taking more short breaks from tasks rather than one long one and using the time to stretch your arms and legs; making sure clothes fit well to allow free movement; keeping muscles warm and reporting pain or symptoms straight away so RSI can be treated promptly.
Employers are urged to provide assessments for each employee to see what risks are associated with their job and how to combat them; encourage early reporting of symptoms and provide appropriate help; ensuring workers take regular breaks.