Prevent repetitive strain injury at work

Causes of repetitive strain injury at work

A wide range of activities and processes can cause upper limb disorders and repetitive strain injury (RSI). In your health and safety risk assessment you should consider all the tasks that are carried out in your business, paying particular attention to those which involve:

  • the use of the hands and arms
  • repetitive actions
  • the use of a lot of force
  • actions performed for a long time
  • poor and static posture or uncomfortable working positions
  • vibration
  • working in cold conditions

You should also consider the effects of stressful working practices such as high workloads, tight deadlines and a lack of control over work or working methods.

Consult with your employees - they're a valuable source of information about RSI risks. Common symptoms of an upper limb disorder include:

  • tenderness
  • pains
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • cramp
  • swelling

Download  a worksheet to help you start assessing upper limb disorder risks (PDF, 147K) .

Workers who are at risk of RSI

Many businesses have to carry out tasks which may involve RSI risks. The following are examples of workers exposed to above average risk:

  • assembly-line workers
  • cleaning and domestic staff
  • construction workers
  • garment machinists
  • hairdressers
  • meat and poultry processors
  • mushroom pickers
  • secretaries
  • pottery workers
  • users of hand-held power tools

This isn't a comprehensive list. The key factor is the nature of the tasks your business carries out, rather than the business sector you work in. Be sure to look at all of them and assess those which may involve RSI risks.