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Monday, February 28, 2005, is International RSI Awareness Day. RSI Awareness Day evolved from an idea by a Canadian injured worker. The first RSI Awareness Day was February 29, 2000, because it was the only non-repetitive day of the year. In non-leap years, like this year, it is observed on February 28.

No one is immune

RSIs are a family of painful disorders affecting tendons, muscles, nerves and joints. They cause persistent or recurring pain most commonly in the neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, wrists and elbows. In some provinces, RSIs account for 50 per cent of occupational injuries.

RSIs are caused by poor work organization factors:

  • Staff layoffs and privatization.
  • Unnecessary overtime.
  • Improper equipment and tools.
  • Standardized equipment and tools that are designed for only one body type.
  • Substandard workstation design.
  • Increased pace of work.
  • Poorly maintained equipment.
  • Inadequate training.
  • Improper temperature and humidity.
  • Excessive vibration from tools and equipment.
  • Insufficient recovery times and rest periods.

All of these poor work organization factors lead CUPE members to perform:

  • Frequent and repetitive actions.
  • Repeated forceful movements.
  • Awkward or static postures.

Eliminate RSIs

The best way to deal with RSIs is to eliminate the hazards that cause them. RSI hazards centre on issues of control over work. Taking action on eliminating RSIs involves CUPE members exercising control at work. One way of exercising control is to use ergonomic principles that take into account the physical and mental strains on workers. Ergonomics is all about adapting workplaces, workstations, tools and other working conditions to fit the worker.

Taking action

CUPE is calling on members to take action to eliminate RSIs. On February 28th take action by bringing hazards to the forefront to have RSI recognized for the disabling disease that it is.

In your workplace:

  • Refuse unsafe working conditions and unnecessary overtime.
  • Report RSI hazards.
  • Conduct regular workplace inspections to uncover RSI hazards.
  • Put RSIs on the health and safety committee agenda.
  • Demand employers take action on improving working conditions and ergonomic conditions that cause RSIs.
  • Insist employers manage work processes and organization so that RSIs are eliminated.

In your community

  • Take part in a RSI day event in your workplace and community.
  • Speak with family and friends about RSIs.
  • Send letters to the editor of your community newspapers.
  • Lobby local politicians for recognition of the day.
  • Send a letter to your provincial minister of labour to bring forward or improve regulations on ergonomics.

Make sure your workplace observes International RSI Awareness Day on February 28. For more information see CUPEs RSI Health and Safety fact sheet or contact the National Health and Safety Branch.