Aging Workers and Repetitive Strain Injuries
We work beside them, we learn from them, and we take care of them.
TORONTO, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - Aging workers are an integral part of the Canadian workforce. Each day these individuals bring value to their workplaces by sharing their dedication, experiences, and skills. As much as we're aware of the commitment and stability they provide to firms, employers must continue to tend to their health and safety needs so that these workers can be productive for many years to come.
International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day on February 28 serves as an opportunity for staff and employers to talk about a health problem that can affect many older workers, RSIs. RSIs are injuries or disorders that develop as a result of repetition, force, vibrations, and awkward postures. Workers can experience these pains and strains in almost any part of the body including: back, neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, wrists, elbows, or lower limbs.
The physical and psychosocial work environment can be contributors to RSIs regardless of a worker's age. However, older workers may be more susceptible to them because of the physical changes they experience as they age. These changes include decreases in strength, cognitive functions, and vision loss. Employers need to be aware of these types of injuries considering that 41% of Canada's working population will be between 45-64 years of age by 2011(1).
Older workers tend to experience more severe RSIs than other groups and their recovery time is longer. In some cases, when they are injured, they may be less inclined to report the injuries to their employers and will work through them, thus further aggravating their problems. If RSIs are left untreated, workers can experience physical pain beyond their working years. To help reduce RSIs in your workplace, try these tips:
- Reduce ergonomic barriers. Adjusting work stations and procedures
goes a long way in preventing potential RSIs. Take some time to
evaluate physical workspaces and find ways to reduce or eliminate
processes that can contribute to RSIs such as excess force, bending,
twisting, or repetition.
- Address psychosocial hazards. When it comes to RSIs, most of the
focus is placed on the physical environment. However, psychosocial
hazards, such as stress or feelings of being overworked or
unappreciated, can also contribute to RSIs. To address this,
employers and staff should collaborate on creating a safe and
supportive work environment. During this process, recognize workers
of varying ages have different communication needs that can impact
health and safety.
- Stop, stretch, and relax. Take a break every hour or so to stretch
your muscles and take a mental health break. Hold each stretch for
15 - 30 seconds and make sure each movement is slow and smooth. Think
about something aside from work to refresh yourself.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Adopting healthy lifestyle practices such
as exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction strategies can help
reduce RSIs. Regular exercise beyond the demands of the job is
important to maintain endurance and strength. Endurance and strength
training keeps you fit and sharper mentally. Learning how to take
care of yourself helps improve your overall well-being so that you're
productive at home and at work for many years to come.
It's a myth that aging workers become less productive as they get older. Their experience, skills, and commitment to their jobs makes them invaluable to their peers and workplaces. To ensure all workers stay healthy and productive, take a moment on International RSI Awareness Day to think about how you can make your workplaces safer for everyone.
More information about RSIs can be found at the following health and safety associations: www.iapa.ca, www.ossa.com, and www.farmsafety.ca.
Farm Safety Association (FSA), Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA), and Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA) are coming together as one organization to better serve Ontario workers and workplaces. Safe Workplace Promotion Services Ontario (SWPSO) is a not-for-profit health and safety organization comprised of these three associations, and is one of four newly amalgamated health and safety organizations resulting from the restructuring of Ontario's workplace health and safety system. SWPSO serves 150,000 firms and more than 4.2 million employees across Ontario.
(1) Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2008
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