Kardashian, Price, and all the rest of us have two things in common: besides the fact that we all breathe, we are also at risk of developing a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).
On this International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day, which falls on Feb. 29, AFGE would like to highlight an article by a local health and safety activist who has worked tirelessly to prevent injuries in the federal workplace: Howard Egerman, Health & Safety rep for the AFGE SSA council.
By Howard Egerman
Repetition is a part of life. It is how we learn to speak, write and read English and other languages. It is also how we learn our jobs and become injured on the job. February 29, the one day on the calendar that is not annually repetitive, is celebrated as International RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) Day.
Throughout the world, health and safety activists stress the importance of training to avoid injuries like my own carpal tunnel syndrome. Several years ago, my great union, the American Federation of Government Employees, voted to recognize this holiday for folks like me who literally gave at the office.
Injuries such as my own have been around since the monks of ancient history got writer's cramp copying those beautiful manuscripts. Perhaps those cavemen and cave women of ancient times got similar injuries as a result of their drawings. Another repetitive action or work such as in the laboratory with piping, at the grocery store with scanning or using the same machine over and over again can lead to a repetitive strain injury such as carpal tunnel, tendinitis, rotator cuff, thoracic outlet syndrome, among others. Like many other so-called desk jockeys who use computers at work, I too was afflicted. Willie Nelson the great country singer had my same fate but he got his carpal tunnel on the job by repetitively playing his guitar.
With the expansion of devices such as smart phones and gaming many people are also becoming injured. The recently traded pitcher David Price developed carpal tunnel by playing video games. Cultural icon Kim Kardashian was in danger of developing selfie thumb from overuse of her cell phone. Her action to prevent further injury hiring a selfie assistant is not open to most of us.
My hands (left 2 surgeries for carpal tunnel, right 1 surgery) and I have testified at California OSHA and Federal OSHA on the need for protection of such injuries. It is interesting that one of the last things the Clinton administration proposed was an ergonomic standard. One of the first things the Bush administration did was to revoke this standard but injuries and new devices for injuring people continued to occur. Something needs to occur to literally stop the pain that I and my fellow victims experience.
What we can do is take breaks away from the computer or if we have an understanding boss to have job rotation, not to do the same thing over and over again. This is simply the classic doctor joke revisited. In fact, I had this happen to me when I told my doctor that it hurt me to change light bulbs. His advice as an orthopedic surgeon was simple, don't do that.
Also we all need to become educated and read as much as we can about any work injuries we suffer. Two books written by Deborah Quilter on Repetitive Strain Injury literally saved my life.
Unless we do something, we may find ourselves rewriting Ernest Hemingway's books with "A Farewell to Arms. shoulders, elbows, hands, necks, wrists, knees, feet and other body parts.”
Happy RSI Day and when 2024 rolls around may your body parts be healthy ones.