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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 08:36 GMT
Call to protect workers from RSI
Taking regular breaks from repetitive tasks may help
More needs to be done to protect workers from repetitive strain injury, health experts say.

RSI rates have been rising in recent years and now costs the UK economy 300m a year in lost working time, sick pay and administration.

But the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy said the issue was still not being taken seriously enough.

It said staff needed to be given regular breaks and access to occupational health specialists.

RSI covers a range of work-related upper limb problems, which can affect the hands, wrists, necks, arms and upper back.

RSI can often be avoided with advice on appropriate equipment and safe working practices from occupational health physiotherapists
Bronwyn Clifford, of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Health and Safety Executive statistics show that there were 115,000 new cases last year - up from 86,000 on the year before.

And the figures revealed that rather than being a problem just for office staff using computers constantly, construction workers such as carpenters and painters were also at high risk.

The society said it was concerned not enough was being done to protect workers.

It called on the government to promote the use of occupational health therapists in the workplace, while businesses needed to make sure staff could have regular breaks and risk assessments were carried out.


The experts also said there were steps staff could take themselves, including avoiding prolonged or repetitive tasks, using both hands for tasks and keeping warm to avoid strains.

Bronwyn Clifford, a spokeswoman for the society, said: "Why do we let this situation continue? Many thousands of people are suffering and employers are losing hundreds of 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."

Try to avoid prolonged or repetitive tasks
Use both hands
Take short breaks rather than one long one
Keep warm - cold muscles don't extend properly
Report pain or other symptoms straight away

The warning comes after the government promised last week to end the sick-note culture.

Ministers said the sick note should be redesigned to allow GPs to spell out what tasks can be done rather than what cannot.

But they also said this had to be coupled by extra efforts from businesses to address health problems, including the establishing of work-based clinics to manage problems such as back pain.

Janet Asherson, the Confederation of British Industry's health and safety policy adviser, said it was important that businesses took the issue seriously, but added there was a lot of good work being done.

"Extensive legislation covers the use of computers and vibration caused by machines and equipment."

The pain of RSI
02 Mar 02 |  Health

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