Occupational Overuse Syndrom

Occupational Overuse Syndrome

The main causes of Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS), which includes RSI's carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. are a variety of repetitive body motions/actions. Thes actions are often imposed on people because of:

  1. Poor ergonomics
  2. An inappropriate workload
  3. Psychosocial factors at work

Personal factors, and attitudes, both of employees and employers, are of equal importance to improving ergonomics. In this context, work organization, including employer's attitudes towards OOS and the whole management style, are relevant, especially in the diffuse conditions.

Where there is an onus on employers to provide a safe workplace, safe methods and systems of work and proper training, employees need to learn the best workplaces, an this my reflect poor working technique.

To resolve all types of OOS, especially in the diffuse conditions, attention needs to be directed to the whole person including their working and domestic circumstances. Assessing the workplace for design features which may cause OOS (i.e. ergonomics) is essential. Due to time constraints, practitioners may need to delegate this responsibility, with the person's permission. The way people use their bodies also needs investigation, and appropriate instruction should be given if necessary.

Individual Susceptibility

People with a variety of previous injuries are susceptible. In addition, susceptibility through both physical predisposition and personality has been suggested. Some people may not be able to relax as well as others.

A tense personality before the arrival of symptoms should not be confused with the secondary anxiety and depression that results from chronic pain.

It is important to decide whether any psychological features are the result of the condition rather than the cause. To exemplify these points, a picture of the person with OOS has been stated as follows:

The typical patient arrives on time, dresses well and delivers a concise history. If not interrupted by someone who has already made up his mind, initial aggression melts. Pain may precede reporting of symptoms by weeks or years. Exacerbation follows a heavier workload, overtime or the arrival of a dominating supervisor or the introduction of production bonuses. Being competitive by nature, she responds, with increased effort, missing tea breaks and eating lunch by the keyboard. She is usually one of the fastest in the group. Additional domestic work may contribute: moving house, knitting or playing a musical instrument enthusiastically. Contrary to may reports i the literature, there was, in almost all cases, a stron desire to return to work. Most accepted they were competitive perfectionists or worriers. The were high achievers, but poor relaxers.

These are valuable employees whose performance can be strongly affected by a real ergonomic program and which can strongly contribute to a company's bottom line.

Case Study

An example is a Soma corporate customer with about 3,000 employees. Before their ergonomic program, annual workers comp claims cost the company about $3M annually. After speeding about $250,000 to implement a comprehensive ergonomics program, which included ergonomic furniture, computer equipment and training, annual workers com costs dropped over 60%. The company saved almost $2M by spending $250,000, that's well over an 800% return on investment. Typical returns on investment for real ergonomics programs are 60-80% with typical productivity increases of 10-25%. For a $250/hr attorney, a 20% productivity gain over an overage 2 week, 80 hour work period could amount to $4,000 in additional billable hours and/or productivity. That would result from spending as little as $1,800 for a full ergonomic retrofit of a typical office, including ergonomic training.

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