February 28, 2015: 16th International Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day

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Tuesday February 3 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015 is the 16th International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day. RSI Awareness Day was first observed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on February 29, 2000. That day was selected because it was the only non-repetitive date of the year. In non-leap years, the day is recognized on the 28th. Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are the most common type of workplace injury in Canada. A Statistics Canada study revealed that more than two million Canadians, or nearly one person in 15, or one in every 10 adults, suffer from injuries severe enough to limit their usual activities.

RSI is a term used to describe a series of painful and often debilitating conditions affecting the body’s soft tissue, particularly muscles, nerves and joints. Pain is most often felt in the neck, shoulders, harms and hands. Contrary to the injuries most often associated with work (sprains, cuts or fractures), RSIs develop slowly over time. The discomfort and pain caused by these injuries can worsen and increase the risk of more serious injuries. Some of these injuries can also cause permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, many workers are unaware that their aches and pains may be caused by repetitive work. RSI Day helps raise awareness among workers about this type of injury and the risks associated with repetitive work.

The work we do at Canada Post makes us vulnerable to this type of injury. All members, both in the urban operations unit (internal, external and technical services groups) and the RSMC unit, can be affected. Many risk factors can lead to RSIs, such as applying excessive and constant force when doing tasks, performing a task too often or for too long, working in a poorly ergonomically-designed area, and not taking regular breaks. In addition to internal symptoms, there can be external signs, such as redness, inflammation, difficulty moving or changes in skin tone.

Fortunately, there are basic things you can do to avoid RSIs:

  • The most important is without question to take all scheduled breaks, including the lunch break. These breaks are essential for your body.
  • Avoid doing the same thing over extended periods. Make sure there’s a rotation of duties and the employer implements it.
  • Be aware that extreme temperatures, cold and vibrations can increase the risk of RSIs.
  • Avoid dehydration. Drinking lots of water promotes good circulation and helps ward off RSIs.
  • Your workstation should allow you to work comfortably and maintain good posture. Good lighting is also important.

Canada Post, like all other federal employers, must abide by the Canada Labour Code, and, more specifically Part 19 of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. These provisions state that the employer must develop preventative measures and employee training.

If you experience pain or discomfort while working, report it to your supervisor and insist that a Supervisor Incident Investigation Report (SIIR) be filled out – don’t forget that a union representative must be present during the investigation, as per the Canada Labour Code and the urban operations collective agreement. Your union representative can also help you ask for an ergonomic assessment to determine if your workstation is the cause. Ask that measures be taken to resolve the problem. If you feel pain or discomfort, see a doctor and file a claim with your provincial workers’ compensation board. Ask a union representative for assistance in filling out a CUPW accident investigation form.
Finally, acting early and quickly can help prevent long-term injuries.

In solidarity,

Serge Champoux
National Union Representative - Health and Safety (2008-2015)