Whether you work at a desk, at a construction site, or a medical office, a large variety of professions may find they are at risk of Repetitive Stress Injuries. Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI), also known as Repetitive Strain Injuries or Cumulative Trauma Disorder, are essentially injuries of the musculoskeletal and/or nervous system that arise from a repeated motion or activity. These injuries can result from both seemingly benign activities such as using a computer mouse or long-term driving, as well as from clearly intensive activities such as heavy lifting or using construction equipment like jackhammers or shovels. All workers, therefore, benefit from a better understanding of how to both identify and prevent an RSI.
When beginning a new job, workers today are usually given thorough training on performing the duties of their job. Included in this training is a run-down on safety procedures, such as proper equipment handling and usage, record-keeping and reporting, use of safety equipment, and sharing various rules and regulations. While this may seem “old hat” to most of us, it was not so long ago that workplace safety was barely, if at all, regulated or mandated. Take for instance the 1906 novel by Upton Sinclair which detailed working conditions in the meatpacking industry. “The Jungle” revealed working and sanitary conditions so dangerous and gruesome that the United States government was forced to respond with inspections and ultimately increased regulations. Today, however, a worker may find that his or her safety is under the regard of multiple large organizations, including government, private and non-profit.
On the list of concerns about our jobs are usually items such as performance reviews, salary or promotion increases, lay-offs, personality issues with your supervisor. And yet, despite a growing number of high-profile news stories on the subject, few of us actually worry about workplace violence. Understandably so, as we tend to think of these incidents in terms of the rarer, exceptionally violent events performed by disturbed individuals. But workplace violence occurs more often than you are likely aware.
Almost everyone, from a construction worker to an office worker, uses their hands at work. Perhaps you do fine work such as repairing tiny electric components, lift and place repeatedly product onto store shelves, or simply type at a keyboard or register for long periods of time. What these workers may not be aware of is that many of them are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
In 2007, actor Dennis Quaid and his wife became the proud parents of twins. Their joy quickly turned to fear when treatment for an infection resulted in the twins receiving a massive overdose of a blood thinner. The twins recovered, but Quaid went on to sue the drug maker due to his belief that incorrect labeling led to his children’s and other patients’ dangerous overdosing. Sadly, the case of the Quaid family is far from an isolated incident. Injuries and death from incorrectly administered medications occurs far more often that people may be aware.
When people discuss safety on public transportation, the conversation tends to focus on protecting ourselves from crime. We are advised to be aware of suspicious characters, to secure your belongings against theft, to report abandoned packages, etc. However, what about our safety from the vehicle itself? When we ride public transport, we trust that the operators of these vehicles have our best interests at heart. We have faith in the professionalism of not only the company that runs the vehicle and its operators, but also the city, state and national government entities devoted to the oversight of our safety. And yet, preventable accidents continue to occur.
We hear all the time about workers who have little to no coverage for when they are unable to work due to injury or illness. But, sadly, there are workers who have access to such coverage, but fail to adequately utilize these benefits. Whether unaware or uninformed, too often people fail to sign up for or use the benefits their employer offers which provide financial assistance when they are unable to work due to injury or illness. And even when they do elect for this coverage, some fail to make certain it will provide enough to maintain their quality of living. By better understanding some types of disability coverage available to you, you can take steps to protect you and your family.
On your way to the store to pick up some Halloween candy? Don’t be surprised to find that next to the bags of candy corn you will already find displays of turkey-themed dishware for Thanksgiving and a selection of Christmas lights. Though far away for most of us, for retailers the holiday season feels like it’s just around the corner. The busiest time of their year, retailers have to start now to prepare for the onset of holiday shoppers by increasing their regular employees’ hours as well as hiring seasonal, temporary workers. As a result, not only will these workers face an increased work load and larger crowds, but more of them will have had less experience and training. At this time of the year, therefore, it is especially important that retail employees receive a reminder on a few ways to protect their health and safety.
One area of concern for retail employees is repetitive stress injuries, an injury that occurs when a person performs a task that consistently puts pressure or strain on one area of the body. Symptoms include pain, numbness, and/or weakness of the affected area. For instance, cashiers’ and stockers’ repetitive use of their hands can end up with carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve running from the arm into the hand becomes compressed at the wrist, causing anything from mild pain or numbness, to severe pain and an inability to maintain a grip. Another common injury is back pain from repeated bending, stooping or lifting, such as when an employee maintains and restocks retail displays. To avoid this problem, employees can ask for assistant devices such as braces to maintain proper support and alignment of joints and muscles. Also, use proper techniques for lifting objects like maintaining bent knees and a straight back, as well as lifting heavy objects in pairs. It also helps to take quick breaks from any repetitive action to relieve your muscles, nerves and joints from stress.
Retail employees are also at risk for slips and falls. From tripping over pallets of merchandise in walkways, to falls that occur while trying to reach high shelves, there are multiple possibilities for injury. Just following your regular duty of cleaning floors or mopping up merchandise spills means working around wet, slippery floors. Maintain safety by wearing shoes with good traction, using well-balanced, two-sided ladders for high shelves, keeping aisles clear, and placing signs warning of wet floors even after closing hours. It’s not just customers who can fall in slippery aisles!
Another concern for employees is crime. At some point in your career you may be faced with robbery or shoplifting. Do not, under any circumstances, confront either. In the case of a robbery, comply as much as you can with their demands; then call the police after the robber has left. Never attempt to detain or question a suspected shoplifter. Instead, if you witness something suspicious, contact your manager, store security and/or the police. In fact, due to several recorded instances of employees being killed or injured when attempting to stop a theft, to diminish liability, many retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy now include in their employee handbooks a policy forbidding employees from intervening during a crime. Employees can and have been fired for failing to follow this rule.
In the rush to staff their stores for the busy holiday season, at times employers fail to adequately teach and/or enforce employee safety measures and regulations. But all retail employees, even seasonal workers, have a right to a safe and healthy working environment. If you have concerns about your safety or health on the job, contact your manager and your human resources department. If you have been injured at work, contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer who can advise you of your rights.
Recently, the toy manufacturing company Fisher-Price announced the safety recall of nearly 11 million of its toy and child products. Children’s trikes, many branded with popular characters like Barbie and Dora the Explorer, made up a large portion of this recall due to injuries caused when children fell on or against the trikes’ protruding toy key. Similarly, over 1 million Fisher-Price high chairs were recalled after pegs on the chair injured a reported 14 children, six of who required stitches. And a number of inflatable balls were recalled which posed a choking hazard.
Most of us know what to do following an accident at work. Many workplaces have clear directives concerning how to report an injury and access workers' compensation. These are often posted on break room walls. This is not always true for those working in the construction industry. Workers may even be discouraged from filing for workers' compensation when the worker is seen to be at fault.