123 Personal Injury Claims - Legal Advice
on Obtaining Compensation for Repetitive Strain Injury
or RSI, otherwise known as Work Related Upper Limb Disorders, or WRULDs, suffered at Work
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Although the term "repetitive strain injury" or "RSI" is still widely used, the Health and Safety Executive and the medical profession largely prefer the expression "Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders", or WRULDs.
Essentially the term is used to describe soft tissue injuries affecting the muscles, tendons and nerves of the hands, arms, shoulders and neck.
The main types of Upper Limb Disorders
This condition refers to the inflammation of the lining of such a sheath through which a tendon runs.
With the onset of tenosynovitis, the sheath becomes inflamed as a result of excessive friction or over use of the tendon and a build up of fluid occurs. The key symptoms are pain, swelling and redness.
This condition refers to the inflammation of the tendon itself. This is caused by direct trauma to the tendon rather than by repetitive activity
This is a condition characterised by pain and swelling in the forearm at the junction of the muscle and tendon above the upper limit of the tendon sheath.
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
This is caused by pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel and the wrist.
The relevant symptoms are pins and needles in the hand, index finger, middle finger and ring finger, particularly at night.
This condition is a common constitutional one and there are a number of known high-risk groups, including arthritis sufferers, pregnant women and women of menopausal age.
Very broadly speaking, there are two types of workers that are likely to develop WRULDs:
Most Upper Limb Disorders (or ULDs) can arise spontaneously without any link to work.
Accordingly, where an employee develops an ULD and wishes to consider making a personal injury compensation claim, he or she needs to be able to demonstrate the specific relevant occupational risk factors.
Bringing successful UK personal injury compensation claims for RSI or WRULDs
It is not enough to prove simply that the condition developed while the claimant was doing his or her work.
There are 3 essential factors that must all be satisfied. These are foreseeability, breach of duty and causation.
The claimant has to prove that the employer knew or should have known that his or her work involved an inherent risk of injury.
Breach of duty
The claimant has to prove that there were steps that the employer could and should reasonably have taken which would have prevented the injury or minimised the risk of it occurring
The claimant has to prove that the employer's breach of duty caused or contributed towards the injury.
Production Line Workers: The Relevant Law
The Health and Safety Executive published a guidance note in 1977 that was widely distributed. That document dealt specifically with tenosynovitis and stated that its cause was:
"Especially where rapid, repetitive, twisting and gripping movements are common eg pottery, glaze dipping, brick-making, assembly line work and belt conveyor sorting for food canning, press operations and the evisceration (ie gutting) and trussing of chickens".
The Health and Safety Executive's 1977 guidance note went on to state:
"The condition is liable to result from trauma, over use of the wrist and forearm during repetitive operations, unaccustomed work, alteration in work tempo or from persistent strain. It occurs most often in new employees or on return to work after an absence or on the introduction of a new process or tool, which places unusual strain on muscles".
In 1990 a further booklet was published by the HSE, entitled "Work Related Upper Limb Disorders - A Guide to Prevention".
This reiterated the previous advice and contained numerous diagrams designed to illustrate good and bad working practices. Keyboard Workers: The Relevant Law
The main statute upon which keyboard workers rely in making a compensation claim is the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.
Under the above regulations, the employer must carry out an analysis of workstations where display screen equipment is used. The risk assessment carried out must reduce the risk to the lowest extent reasonably practicable.
Moreover, the activities of users of display screen equipment must be periodically interrupted by breaks and changes of activity.
The Health and Safety Executive published a guidance document in relation to the 1992 Regulations, stating:
"Soft tissue disorders among keyboard workers have often been associated with high workloads combined with tight deadlines. This variety of factors contributing to display screen work risk requires a risk reduction strategy which embraces proper equipment, furniture, training, job design and work planning".