Repetitive strain injury (RSI) covers a wide range of injuries to muscles, tendons and nerves. Usually, hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders are affected. However, knees and feet can also suffer, especially if the job involves a lot of kneeling or operating foot pedals on equipment.
In fact, RSI is only one of a wider set of conditions also known as work-related upper limb disorders, or WRULDS. There are many different names for these injuries including:
■ Carpal tunnel syndrome
■ Dupuytren’s contracture
■ Tennis elbow
■ Writer’s cramp
■ Housemaid’s knee
RSI is caused or made worse by, work that demands awkward or repetitive movements, especially if there is a need to apply pressure as well. If these movements are repeated frequently then the hands and wrists may feel painful or numb.
RSI is a serious issue for many cleaners. Cleaning staff whose work often involves awkward postures, prolonged gripping, repeated movements, physical force, vibration and the use of badly designed equipment could be at risk.
Employers have a legal duty to prevent RSI and the risk assessment will identify ways of doing so. Prevention measures can include changing the way cleaning is carried out, and adapting or replacing outdated equipment such as floor buffers and vacuum cleaners. Safety representatives can use the following checklist to get employers to prevent the risk of RSI to cleaning staff.