TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 28, 2014) - On Feb 28, we mark the 15th Annual International RSI Awareness Day. This day was created by injured workers and labour activists to bring awareness and action to the growing epidemic of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
RSIs and MSDs are generic terms that refer to both long term chronic and acute injuries which damage the muscles, tendons and nerves. They typically impact the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck and lower back. These injuries can significantly reduce the quality of life for the injured worker making many simple tasks such as hair grooming impossible.
In Ontario approximately 40% of all lost-time injury claims at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) are a result of RSIs or MSDs. As with many other types of injuries many more RSIs and MSDs go unreported. Approximately a third of the Ontario workforce does not have WSIB coverage so these statistics do not include these workers.
These types of injuries often start with aches and pains. The resulting aches and pains can progress into crippling and permanent disorders preventing those affected from working or leading normal lives.
Interventions involving ergonomics, engineering, proper work organization, work design and education can go a long way in preventing work related RSIs and MSDs.
Ergonomics can be defined as fitting the job to the worker. All workers are not the same size and everyone has limits. The goal of ergonomics is to design workstations, work procedures, equipment and tools to fit the individual.
For years, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and injured worker groups have been working to raise awareness on this issue. Our organizations the Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) have developed information, materials, guides and training workshops on RSIs, MSDs and ergonomics. These are intended to give workers and their representatives the skills to recognize and prevent these injuries. The OFL's Occupational Disability Response Team (ODRT) provides advocates with the skills to fight for just compensation when prevention fails and workers are injured.
As they have for many years the WHSC are offering discounted workshops across Ontario leading up RSI Day. OHCOW is once again offering a free interactive web-based conference on February 28th. Activists in communities around the world are organizing events in recognition of this Day.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has worked through Ontario's prevention system to develop guidelines to assist employers and Joint Health and Safety Committees recognize and address ergonomic hazards. The enforcement arm of the MOL has conducted inspection blitzes focused on identifying the causes of workplace injuries. They have upgraded the skills of the inspectors so they can be more aware of ergonomic hazards in the workplace. These blitzes have taken place in the construction, health care, industrial and mining sectors. Thousands of orders have been written covering everything from training, material handling, maintaining equipment and a general failure to take every precaution reasonable to protect workers. The MOL has pledged to making the prevention of these injuries a priority and to continue to raise awareness of the hazards.
Unfortunately, we know all too well that awareness is not enough to convince employers to implement the interventions needed to prevent workers from being injured. If voluntary measures worked, we would already see these interventions in every workplace across Ontario. Legislation is necessary to drive employers to make the investments necessary to protect workers from these devastating and life altering injuries. Lobbying efforts will need to continue until ergonomic legislation is passed.
Ergonomic regulations would require that workplaces, work stations, tools, equipment and the organization of work be designed or changed to prevent these types of injuries. We also know from experience that once the legislation is passed the efforts to see it enforced begins.
Our message to this government must be loud and clear, "Support Ergonomic Regulations".
For more information on the resources and training available:
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour. Follow OFL President Sid Ryan on Twitter @SidRyan_OFL.