Workplace Stress and Repetitive Strain Injuries

    MISSISSAUGA, ON, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - Being aware of repetitive strain
injuries or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is very important during
challenging economic times. With International Repetitive Strain Injury Day
taking place on Saturday, February 28, 2009, employers and employees should
take this opportunity to become more aware of a growing problem in workplaces,
MSDs. MSDs account for 40% of all lost-time claims in Ontario workplaces(1),
yet when discussing MSDs most of the focus is on physical hazards such as
posture, repetition, force, and vibrations that lead to injuries and pains.
But there's another crucial element that needs to be considered when
discussing MSDs and that's the psychosocial environment. Worrying about
potential job losses and being overworked are examples of psychological
stressors that can inhibit your productivity and affect your physical
    Psychosocial risk factors contribute to MSDs as they can affect your
behaviour and make you more prone to physical hazards. Examples of
psychosocial risk factors include stress from excessive work demands, lack of
support from supervisors and co-workers, lack of control at work, too much or
too little communication, and feelings of being unappreciated at work. To
illustrate this point, psychological stress affects how you perform at work
and the work environment you work in. If you're feeling stressed, you may not
pay attention to your posture or continue doing the same task over and over
without taking a break. When experiencing stress, there's more tension in the
neck and shoulders - these same muscles may already be affected by awkward
reaching or prolonged work with the neck bent, which are common to many office
and manufacturing tasks.

    Here are some tips to help you address psychosocial hazards that can lead
to MSDs:

    -   People may feel stressed and helpless because of the turbulent
        economic climate. Involving staff to identify possible solutions to
        address the ergonomic issues is one way of increasing their sense of
        control over their health and safety. Employers should avoid forcing
        solutions onto staff without consulting them. To truly engage and
        empower staff, collaborate and use their skills and talents to
        resolve problems.

    -   Create a support network where you can discuss work and personal
        issues. Being mindful of your own well-being and those of your
        colleagues also means ensuring that everyone continues to follow all
        workplace health and safety procedures.

    -   Be proactive in your communication. Identify potential problems,
        communicate, and address them promptly. Keeping staff informed of
        issues leads to a more connected workforce. Plus, staff will feel
        more engaged, which is especially important during tough economic

    -   Recognize employees during challenging times. Staff often feel
        forgotten as they go about their day to day tasks. A simple
        "thank you" brightens a person's day and shows that they are
        appreciated by their employers and peers.

    -   Take a break. Stepping away from a stressful situation and taking a
        few deep breaths will help rejuvenate you. And it also provides a
        physical break from repetitive activities.

    -   Learn to take care of yourself. Personal wellness takes a back seat
        during stressful times. But taking some time for yourself whether it
        be spending time with the family or playing a sport goes a long way
        in reducing stress and potential injuries.

    Don't put health and safety on the backburner during challenging times.
Continuing to address the health and safety needs of staff demonstrates that
employers care about their well-being - not just the bottom line. Learning to
prevent incidents in the workplace benefits everyone as it will result in a
healthier and productive workforce.
    To find out more about MSDs and how to prevent them, go to IAPA's

    Submitted by IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), a
not-for-profit organization operating in Ontario since 1917. Representing more
than 50,000 member firms and in excess of 1.5 million Ontario workers, IAPA is
Canada's leader in workplace health, safety, and employee well-being.

    (1) Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB). Statistical Supplement to
        the Annual Report 2006. 2007

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact, Lena Wan, Communications and PR
Specialist, IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), Tel: (905)
614-4272, ext. 2247, E-mail:

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