Repetitive strain injuries occur from an extended buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves due to repetitive work activities. They are among the most common type of workplace injury. A 2016 examination by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that injuries involving repetitive motion strains resulted in the longest time away from work. In an ALMA study of cases from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019 based on total incurred cost of claims, AEU discovered that strains from repetitive motions accounted for 8.9% of the total cost of all claims.
Repetitive motion strains can take a prolonged time to heal and often negatively affect an injured worker's quality of life for many years. Treatment may include extended time off from work, physical therapy, drug prescriptions, steroid injections and even surgery. These types of strains can limit a worker’s abilities and even prevent them from ever being able to go back to their normal job functions. It is for these reasons that repetitive motion strains can be such costly and detrimental injuries for an employer.
Employees should be aware of the risk factors that can lead to repetitive motion injuries and should pay attention to symptoms to prevent an injury before it happens. Management and labor must work together as a team to make the workplace safer, healthier, and smarter in reducing repetitive motion injury hazards.
A participatory ergonomics program that utilizes workers as the experts in identifying problems and finding solutions will be the most successful. Components of an effective ergonomics program should include:
Within maritime operations, we see numerous exposures that can contribute to repetitive strain injuries. Some of these include:
It is important that the company identify potential repetitive strain hazards and implement effective controls to reduce exposures. Some of the risk factors to consider when evaluating activities that may lead to repetitive strains include:
Photos illustrating some repetitive motion strain exposures can be found on the Safety Focus: Strains From Repetitive Motions page on the ALMA member resource website.
As part of our monthly Safety Focus initiative, the ALMA member resource website has a page providing safety resources related to strains from repetitive motions. Resources include: