February is Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI) / Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness month at CCSA. MSIs are the most common type of injury in continuing care and can be caused by resident handling and manual materials handling activities.
Musculoskeletal injuries or repetitive strain injuries are injuries or disorders of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue including a sprain, strain and inflammation, that may be caused or aggravated by work tasks.
Signs and Symptoms
There are often signs and symptoms that are present before an injury occurs and long before any work is missed. It is very important that everyone (managers, supervisors, workers, etc.) is aware of the signs and is keeping a “look out” for:
A hazard, as defined in the Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Act, is “a situation, condition or thing that may be dangerous to the health and safety of workers.” A hazard has the potential to cause an injury, illness or loss. Some people think of a hazard as “an incident waiting to happen”. Potential hazards are those that are foreseeable and reasonably likely to occur.
Hazards in continuing care that may result in MSI include:
Circumstances that exist in the workplace
- Lack of appropriate resident handling equipment
- Heavy furniture that cannot be moved easily
- Working short staffed
- Lack of appropriate manual materials handling equipment
State of the workplace environment
- Heavy residents
- Poor lighting
- Small work area
- Residents with high needs
- Wet floors
- Icy sidewalks
- Poor lighting
- Lack of space
An object in the workplace
- Used syringe
- Improper sling
- A used syringe
- A table saw
One of the keys to managing MSIs is to encourage a system of early reporting. It is important to report early signs and symptoms because:
- Continuing to work with an injured body part can affect other parts of the body and compound the situation.
- If left untreated, symptoms can become chronic and can lead to a disability.
- Early treatment of an injury can prevent lost time from the work place.
- It may help keep a co-worker injury free.
It is especially important to report signs and/or symptoms if the:
- Pain is persistent, severe or worsening.
- Pain radiates.
- Symptoms keep you from sleeping at night.
If a worker reports to their employer that they believe they have symptoms of an MSI, the employer is required to review the activities of that worker and also any other workers doing similar tasks to identify if there are any work related causes. If it is found that there are work-related causes the employer must take corrective measures to avoid further injuries.
Employers are responsible for identifying hazards, implementing control measures to eliminate or reduce the hazards, and train workers to use the control measures provided and workers are responsible for reporting hazards they identify and to use the control measures provided by the employer.
When performing any resident or manual handling task always follow the S.A.F.E. Principles: Scan. Adjust. Follow-thru. Evaluate.