What is a repetitive strain injury?
‘Repetitive strain’ is a general term that is used to describe injuries and pain caused to the muscles, tendons, joints and nerves by way of repeated use of certain machinery or muscular movements. Most commonly, RSIs affect the upper body, forearms, wrists and hands. In severe cases, the symptoms can lead to people being in great pain and unable to work, often requiring surgery.
Symptoms can range from mild to extremely severe, but in most cases develop gradually over a period of time as a result of repetitive use of machinery or working position. They include:
- Pain and cramping in the forearm or wrist
- Tenderness in the area affected by the RSI
- Numbness and tingling in the tendons
- Intense throbbing pain
- Weakness (loss of dexterity and grip strength)
The most common types of RSI that lead to claims for compensation include:
What causes an RSI?
A repetitive strain injury can be caused by the repeated and regular use of certain machinery, or because of a working position. Nature did not prepare the human body for the work practices, tools and muscle use that modern life demands of us. As such, we are prone to suffering from an RSI when we do not take the appropriate precautions to minimise the risks of such injuries.
A common job for those who suffer with an RSI is one that involves a lot of typing. However, RSI’s are not limited to office environments, with people working in heavy engineering, manufacturing, construction and highways maintenance also likely to be at risk.
Repetitive strain injuries will be sustained if someone spends too long or too often doing the same thing, whether that be typing at a keyboard or using a pneumatic drill.
Employer responsibilities to prevent RSI
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that they take every step possible to minimise the risk of workers suffering from a repetitive strain injury.
In an office, they need to make sure that workstations are properly set up to satisfy occupational health requirements that minimise the stress placed on the nerves and tendons in the forearms. For example, keyboard workers should be provided with the correct support for their wrists and sit at the correct height and distance from their monitors.
Employers that require staff to use heavy vibratory equipment such as drills, pneumatic equipment and whacking plates, must ensure that staff are given adequate personal protective equipment, training and guidance with the use of such machines. They also need to factor in regular breaks and job rotations to reduce the risk of RSI symptoms affecting workers.
Who can claim RSI compensation?
Any person who has been diagnosed with an RSI as a result of their working life has a right to seek compensation for their injuries. This will include a settlement for the pain and discomfort of the injury and also for any loss of income or expenses as a result of the RSI.
A claim will succeed if it can be proven that an employer has been negligent and failed to provide adequate protection and minimisation of the risks faced by workers.
Who pays for it?
If you succeed with your claim, it will be your employer’s insurance provider who eventually makes any agreed settlement payments to you. Remember, you will not pay a penny if your claim fails. If you win, you contribute up to 25% of your settlement value towards the costs of the claim. This deduction is a requirement of the LASPO Act 2012 and can be taken from the claim value total. There can be no deduction applied to any element of a settlement award that is made for future loss of income or future medical costs.
What if an RSI worsens a pre-existing health condition?
As with any claim, if you have a pre-existing health condition that has been worsened because of a repetitive strain injury, you can still proceed with a claim for compensation. In such cases, medical experts will be able to identify what the pre-existing condition was and what the extent of the worsening of any symptoms can be attributed to the RSI situation.
In such matters, when it comes to agreeing the level of damages that should be paid, the value of the claim will rest on the agreed additional pain and discomfort caused to the pre-existing condition by the RSI.
What to do if you think you have an RSI
Your first port of call should be your GP. If you are diagnosed with an RSI, we can then very quickly identify whether or not you have a viable claim for compensation against your employer.
Claiming compensation can never fully repair the damage done by an injury, but receiving a settlement value that properly accounts for the level of pain and discomfort (alongside a special damages claim for loss of income) can greatly help with the pressures of day-to-day life. At Direct2Compensation, our solicitors will work extremely hard to ensure that your claim is settled as quickly as possible and for the fullest amount available.