February 28: Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day

Pay attention to the pain caused by repetitive movements

At work, our daily tasks often require us to perform the same movements repeatedly. Whether we have to lift boxes, hold small tools to perform precision work or use a computer mouse, all of these seemingly harmless movements can end up causing pain—initially temporary and then persistent—and lead to injuries that affect the tendons, joints, muscles and nerves and limit our normal activities. These are what are known as repetitive strain injuries.

Every year, on February 28, a day is devoted to repetitive strain injury awareness. According to Statistics Canada, some two million Canadians suffer from repetitive strain injuries and more than half of these injuries are caused by work related activities. If we ignore them and they are not treated in time, they can cause a great deal of suffering, as well as a decrease in productivity and an increase in compensation and health care costs.

Whether we are employers or employees, we all benefit from focusing on prevention. Under Part II of the Canada Labour Code, which deals with occupational health and safety, and Part XIX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, employers are responsible for taking action to prevent workplace risks related to musculoskeletal injuries, including repetitive strain injuries. Employees are also responsible for identifying and reporting anything or any situation that could cause a repetitive strain injury.

If you have difficulty moving part of your body or you feel pain, numbness or tingling, usually in the neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, wrists, elbows or lower limbs, pay attention. These may be warning signs of a repetitive strain injury. Get informed and take the necessary action now, because action means prevention.

For more information about repetitive strain injuries and the awareness day, please visit the site of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. The Labour Program has also developed a guide to help employers and members of workplace health and safety committees better understand the risks associated with ergonomic problems and implement a prevention program.