Repetitive strain injury claims

Repetitive strain injury or RSI is an injury that has come to the fore in recent years which is often attributed to the increased use of computers.

Many office jobs involve the use of computers which has resulted in people spending long periods of time staring at screens or tapping away on keyboards. The problem with this is that these repetitive actions can cause musculoskeletal diseases such as RSI.

If left untreated repetitive strain injury can become a chronic disorder which can affect quality of life.

RSI can affect anyone who performs repetitive movements and is not solely confined to computer work but it is occupations which involve keyboard work which appear to have the greater number of RSI injuries.

A good example of this is jobs such as data input clerks or computer operators which required people to spend long periods of time inputting date via a keyboard. Typists are also prone to this condition as are production line and checkout operators.

If you have developed RSI which you suspect is linked to your job then you may be able to claim compensation. The onus is on proving that your employer was at fault in some way which resulted in your injury.

What is RSI?

This is the name given to a condition which commonly affects the upper body such as the hands, wrists, forearms and elbows. It is used to describe pain experienced in the muscles, tendons or nerves in those parts of the body due to overuse or repetitive movements.

Another name for this is ‘work related upper limb disorder’.

The term ‘repetitive strain injury’ is often used as an umbrella term to describe a range of soft tissue conditions such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and writer’s cramp.

It occurs when someone is engaged in an activity for a long period of time, for example, using a computer.

There are two types of RSI which are:

  • RSA Type 1
  • RSA Type 2

RSA Type 1 is used to classify a medical condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome. This is characterised by swelling or inflammation of the tendons within an upper part of the body such as the wrists.

RSA Type 2 is used as a classification when a specific medical condition cannot be diagnosed. This version involves pain and discomfort but there are no visible symptoms.

Causes of RSI

Overuse is the most likely cause but there are others which include:

  • Poor ergonomics (e.g. incorrect set up of your workstation)
  • Bad posture
  • Stress
  • Cold temperatures
  • Repetitive actions

Any activity which is performed for long periods of time without a break or puts a strain on a part of the body will result in RSI.

Symptoms of RSI

Many people find that their symptoms appear whilst working but disappear once they stop or take a break. But the danger here is that of continuing without seeking treatment which only worsens the situation.

The symptoms of RSI will worsen if left untreated and can become chronic even untreatable. This is whey it is important to seek medical advice as soon as you notice any warning signs.

Signs to look for include:

  • Tingling or pins and needles
  • Cramping sensation
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Unable to grip things properly
  • Pain in the fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders or neck
  • Burning feeling

A delay in seeking treatment can mean a longer recovery.

Employer responsibility

There are Health and Safety guidelines regarding RSI and what steps employers can take to minimise the risk. This means ensuring that an employee’s workstation is correctly set up and ergonomically sound.

(Source: Health and Safety Executive)

They should be able to reach their keyboard without any unnecessary strain on their wrists and hands and place their feet firmly on the floor.

Frequent breaks should be taken which rest the eyes as well as the body.

A risk assessment should be carried out for every employee to ensure that their workstation is safe to use and there is minimal risk of an injury such as RSI.

The problems arise when employers are unaware of the risks of repetitive strain injury or choose to ignore it. If they do not take sufficient steps to protect their employees against this then they may be liable for compensation.

RSI can have serious consequences.

Effects of RSI

RSI can cause a number of conditions such as osteoarthritis, trapped nerves, adhesions and damaged tendons. Some of these are permanent conditions which may restrict normal functioning on a daily basis.

If you develop RSI and it progresses to a chronic state then you may be left with a weakness in the affected part of the body and impaired movement. This can seriously affect your ability to undertake your normal daily activities which causes stress and anxiety.

Your RSI may force you to look for another job which is a time consuming and stressful activity, made even harder in the current climate. Or it may mean taking time off work which causes a drop in income and impacts upon you and your family’s standard of living.

There is the pain and discomfort of the injury but added to that is the emotional distress as well. This is made even worse if your condition is irreversible.

There are various forms of treatment available such as anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and support services such as physiotherapy. But these can be expensive and do not guarantee a complete recovery.

If you are awarded compensation then this can be used to pay for treatment or any other expenses which have arisen as a result of your injury. This will ease the stress and anxiety caused by RSI.

Making a claim for compensation for RSI

Look for a personal injury lawyer or solicitor who has knowledge and experience of these types of claims. He or she will have an understanding of the complex issues regarding RSI and the likely outcome of making a claim such as this.

RSI has been a hot topic for some time so he/she should be aware of this and take it into account when reviewing your claim.

This review will be carried out initially to determine if there are suitable grounds for pursuing a claim. If there are then your claim will be handled by a lawyer who should advise you at every stage of the process.

If you want to know more about the claims process then visit our making a claim for compensation section.

Time limit for claiming compensation for RSI

Claims for personal injury compensation have a 3 year deadline which starts from the date of the accident or injury.

However you may wish to confirm this with your lawyer or solicitor.

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