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The BBC's Zoe Aspinall
"Recent research suggests left-handed people may be more creative"
 real 56k

Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Lefty workers 'at risk of injury'
Repetitive Strain Injury
RSI can be painful and debilitating
A leading union is calling for research into the health problems facing left-handed people at work.

The GMB union believes that Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is more common among left-handers.

The union says this is because equipment tends to be designed by right-handed designers for right-handed users, forcing left-handed workers to make damaging, unnatural and awkward movements.

However, the problem with RSI may be just the tip of iceberg, according to the GMB.

Famous lefties
Albert Einstein
Pablo Picasso
Charlie Chaplin
Marilyn Monroe
Jimi Hendrix

A 1991 study of death certificates showed that significantly more left-handers than right-handers died in accidents.

Kim Sunley, GMC health and safety researcher, said: "The GMB union is calling on designers to be aware of user needs and to come up with innovative designs which accommodate both left and right-handed users.

"Employers can play their part by supplying tools and equipment that will not injure left-handed workers, who are often the most creative workers."

It is estimated that left-handers make up between 13% and 30% of the UK population.

Wendy Lawrence, a member of the GMB and the RSI Association, says that being left-handed had caused difficulties throughout her working life.

"Right-handed design for right-handed users slows down the ability of left-handers to use equipment and tools, as their brains struggle to learn 'the other way round'.

"Everyday things like public telephones, electric hand power tools, keyboards and mouse are all geared for right-hand use."

Shorter life span

The disadvantages of being left-handed were graphically illustrated by the findings of a study by US psychology professor Stanley Coren.

He found that on average left-handers were likely to live for nine years less than right-handers.

Professor Coren suggested several factors to explain his findings:

  • higher likelihood of birth or pregnancy complications
  • slower growth patterns
  • higher susceptibility to a number of diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy
  • a tendency to certain potentially hazardous behaviour patterns such as alcoholism and increased criminality

However, he also said that another possible reason for the difference was the increased health risks experienced by left-handers living and working in environments designed for right-handers.

International Left-handers Day is Sunday August 13.

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See also:

23 Dec 99 | Health
Computer games pose injury risk
06 Jan 99 | Health
Of mice and men
16 Jul 99 | Health
RSI linked to nerve damage
09 Aug 99 | Health
Formula One drivers get RSI
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