Repetitive stress injuries are some of the most expensive workplace injuries in the United States. On average, they result in approximately 23 days away from work, a much higher than the rate of days off from work due to other injuries.
A new Boston University study shows that repetitive motion injuries can be prevented, and save employers thousands of dollars, by changing routines in the workplace.
Of all the repetitive motion injuries linked to lost productivity and worker injuries, shoulder injuries are by far the most common. The study, conducted by the Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, focused on janitors and custodial workers who may be at a much higher risk of repetitive stress injuries because of the tasks involved their work.
Their duties require them to use the same set of muscles repeatedly and over a long period of time. For instance, frequent lifting, picking, stooping, bending or twisting the back can result in overuse of the same muscles, leading to muscle wear and tear. Over time, the person may suffer symptoms of musculoskeletal injuries that range from cramping and pain, to numbness and a tingling sensation. That makes repetitive stress injuries the second most frequent type of injury among janitors and custodians.
To reduce expenses from repetitive stress injury in janitors and custodial workers, Boston University researchers developed a physical therapy intervention program. The team presented findings showing that making simple changes to workplace routines could help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries resulting from repetitive motion.
At the university, approximately 40 percent of all shoulder injuries reported by custodial workers between 2002 and 2009 were linked to overuse of certain muscles. The researchers began using the Sargent College intervention in 2010 and found that after the intervention was implemented, no custodial workers at Boston University reported shoulder injuries from repetitive motion at all. As a result of the use of the intervention, the university found its annual costs from shoulder injuries dropping by nearly 85 percent.
As the Boston University model shows, preventing repetitive stress injuries is not something that can be left entirely to workers. Many workers are aware of the dangers of using the same set of muscles repeatedly over a period of time but find no support in the workplace to prevent these injuries. Collaborative programs between employers and workers and a program that includes occupational health and physical therapy routines should be implemented across industries to reduce the risk of those injuries.
For instance, it is common knowledge that taking frequent rest periods while performing repetitive work can help prevent overuse of specific sets of muscles, and reduce the risk of such injuries. Employers need to take these factors into consideration to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries among workers.
Until more employers take action, however, workers should be aware they can seek relief for damages through a personal injury law firm.
Source: Boston University