Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI): Are they in decline?
Friday, February 27 2015 will be the 16th year that workers and allies will gather in Toronto to demand action on preventing and properly compensating repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). This year we will mobilize a defense against the growing belief that RSIs are a thing of the past. The WSIB and the MOL tell us (based on statistics) that musculoskeletal injuries (another name for RSIs) are declining. And a 2014 research report form the Institute for Work & Health seems to agree, stating that, “the burden of non-traumatic MSDs arising from work exposures is declining among working-age adults.” Yet the statistics and the research don’t reflect the lived experience of workers.
RSI is a generic term used to describe overuse injuries that affect muscles, tendons and nerves of the neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, arms and hands. These injuries are not sexy; they do not make the front page of the newspaper, yet they can cripple people for life.
RSIs can take years to develop, they can be difficult to diagnose and determining causality may be complex, making them an easy for employers to ignore and an easy target for WSIB in its efforts to cut benefit costs. Injuries often go unrecognized and unreported and if employers feel little pressure to address causes of RSIs – repetitive movements, force, vibration, awkward postures and lifting – little will be changed in the workplace.
The idea that repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are on the decline is a mirage, because not all injuries are captured by the stats. Yes, the “system burden” may be decreasing, but RSIs are not a thing of the past. Injuries are still happening. Other factors are at play here. Abusive treatment by unnecessarily bureaucratic processes at the hands of the WSIB and by employers simply forces some injured workers not to file claims or to abandon their claims. Increasing precarious work status means that workers suffering musculoskeletal injuries often stay at work in pain. Or they go to family doctors. They go to local hospitals, walk-in clinics, or urgent care centres where they may deny that their injury is work-related because they are afraid of the consequences. Employers offer and workers use their short term sick pay (if they have it) and hide their work injury. Workers get fired when they complain. And when appropriate accommodation is not provided, workers sit home with no WSIB and no pay either. Workers hide and employers hide them from the WSIB system. The “system” benefits, but workers do not.
Come join us to mount our critique of the supposed decline in musculoskeletal injuries. We know that decreasing stats do not prove that MSDs are declining. Join us to talk about the decline of the “system burden” and discuss whether the decline is caused by fewer injuries or the draconian WSIB policies that blame injuries on age and pre-existing conditions to deny treatment to injured workers.
The decimation of the workers compensation system results in big savings for employers whose WSIB costs are reduced as workers are pushed away from help and treatment from the employer-paid system and into the taxpayer-paid public health system. And not only are employers’ costs reduced, many receive hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in experience rating rebates, for keeping their compensation claims numbers low. It’s actually criminal.
These attacks and the lack of a regulation to mandate prevention for RSIs should infuriate every person who works in this province as well as everyone whose health has been robbed by work and who continues to be victimized by the theft of the very compensation that should rightly provide basic independence and dignity. Employer WSIB premiums should compensate injured workers, not be siphoned back each year to employers as experience rating rebates.
We ALL need to care about overcoming the lack of will to prevent these injuries and the continuing attacks on recognizing and compensating RSI injuries. All workers need to stand together with unions and allies to stop these attacks to our basic human rights. Come join us.
Date: Friday February 27, 2015
Location: Steelworkers Hall 25 Cecil Street, Toronto (Spadina and College)
Time: 10:00 am -3:00 pm….. Registration & Coffee at 9:30 am
Cost: Free. including lunch, but pre-registration required
**This is a “SCENT FREE” event**
Please do not wear scented products. Thank you.
Sign up to be added to the mailing list to receive updates on the Toronto RSI Day conference on Feb 27 and to be notified of future events at http://eepurl.com/bcEN39
* Please note, we rely on the generous donations from unions and community groups to offer this free conference each year, so all who wish to attend are able. If your group wishes to donate to cover the cost of the food, please email firstname.lastname@example.org All donations are appreciated.
Other RSI Day Events:
Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) is hosting an ergonomics conference at Cambrian College that can be attended in person or online from Sudbury. See details at www.ohcow.on.ca
The Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) is offering reduced cost ergonomics training locations across Ontario. Click here for training dates, registration, and information. – See more at www.whsc.on.ca