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Preventing the Number 1 occupational health problem: Repetitive strain injuries

According to OSHA, repetitive strain injuries are the nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of workers and costing $20 billion a year in Workers’ Compensation as well as billions more in lost productivity, employee turnover and other expenses.

Workstation ergonomic assessments and properly designed workstations fit the task to the worker, so they can work without harm or injury. An ergonomically correct workstation means that all the necessary work components - monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. can be comfortably positioned to avoid straining, overreaching and twisting that can lead to painful conditions such as carpal tunnel, neck tension, tendinitis and other upper body pain.

Reducing the risk of these injuries begins with an ergonomic workstation. Whenever a new employee comes on board, a workstation ergonomic assessment and modifications should be a top priority for those who use computers or perform repetitive work.

An excellent resource is the Job Accommodation Network’s Resource Guide, Ergonomics in the Workplace.

For injury treatment, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has recently published new medical treatment guidelines for providing care to workers with injuries to the hand, wrist and forearm. The new guidelines are available online via ACOEM’s APG-I web application.