Britain’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) warned in February that measures to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI) in the workplace are still lacking, causing many thousands of British employees to develop the debilitating and painful condition. The CSP wants employers and the government to do more to protect workers from RSI, an ergonomics-related problem encompassing a variety of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that usually afflict the upper body.
The CSP news release on February 23 noted that government Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics indicate there has been little progress in tackling the problem in the last six years. Of the figures for 2007-8, over a third (81,000) were new cases, compared with a similar figure of 87,000 people in 2001-02, when 222,000 workers were found to be suffering with RSI. Injuries were most common in building trades, health and social care and among factory workers.
HSE estimates that RSI costs British businesses £300 million (US $423 million) a year in lost working time, sick pay and administration. RSI sufferers take an average of 13 days off work in a year, meaning that nearly three million working days are lost annually.
Pauline Cole, CSP spokesperson and member of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics, said there is a clear opportunity for employers to do more to provide occupational health services both with regard to prevention of RSI and rehabilitation. She said the CSP is calling on the government “to both encourage and enforce measures to address this with legislation,” combined with incentives and best practice guidance. “We may then, after the frustration of many years of no progress, begin to see some reduction in the rates of this almost completely preventable condition.”
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director John Cridland objects to any move toward a statutory requirement on employers. Quoted in the BBC report on the RSI figures, he said such a requirement would place a huge burden on businesses, especially small and medium-sized firms that are already struggling during the recession. "Our own research shows that seven out of 10 employers already offer occupational health support to staff.” Instead of a statutory requirement, he said, “the focus should be on improving information and support on appropriate prevention strategies.”
Ergonomics underpins the “appropriate prevention strategies” recommended by CBI Director Cridland.
Sources: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; BBC