Understanding Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) in the Workplace

In RSCM Policy Item: C4-27.00 (A) Repetitive Strain Injury or RSIs are referred to by the Board as part of Activity-Related Soft Tissue Disorders (ASTDs), which are disorders related to physical activity and which affect muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Repetitive strain injuries can occur by exposure to employment-related risk factors as well as exposures to non-employment related risk factors in everyday life such as playing recreational sports. They are often caused “by exposure to a combination of risk factors”. 

The Role of WorkSafeBC in Handling RSI Claims

The repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) that WorkSafeBC will accept are laid out in Schedule 1 of the Workers Compensations Act. If a claim is brought for RSI that is not in Schedule 1 then WorkSafeBC will look at establishing Work Causation. WorkSafeBC provides compensation for repetitive strain injuries that were due to the nature of your employment. Compensation may also be available if a significant contributing factor in causing or aggravating your repetitive strain injuries was employment related. 

Why File for a WorkSafeBC Claim for RSIs

Reporting a workplace injury or illness to WorkSafeBC is a critical step in the claims process.  Filing a WorkSafeBC Claim for repetitive strain injuries allows WorkSafeBC to investigate your claim and decide if you are eligible for compensation. It is important to file a claim as soon as possible after a workplace injury. If WorkSafeBC accepts your claim then you could get compensation and access to resources to aid in your recovery and help you in the return to work process if the RSI has disabled you from earning full time wages or impacted your ability to return to your pre-injury job. 

Understanding WorkSafeBC’s Compensation Determination for RSIs

RSCM Policy Item: C4-27.10 (A) explains what the Board looks at in establishing that a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) occurred in the workplace: 

“In determining whether the worker’s employment was of causative significance in
causing or aggravating the worker’s ASTD, the Board considers:

  • the mechanics of the employment activity in question (e.g. is the condition
    bilateral, while the employment activity to a greater degree required movement of
    the limb on one side?);
  • whether any changes took place in the worker’s employment or non-employment
    activities prior to or at the time of onset of the ASTD;
  • whether there is evidence of ASTD onset in those who perform the same type of
    employment or non-employment activities as the worker;
  • the potential combined effect of activities in more than one employment; and
  • whether the worker has pre-existing injuries, diseases or other conditions that
    may be associated with the onset of the ASTD at issue, and the cause of such

Policy Item: C4-27.10 (B) addresses what risk factors are considered in determining if compensation is due. 

“When assessing whether a worker’s employment was of causative significance in the
development of an ASTD, the Board generally considers how the worker interacts with
the work environment and the following employment-related risk factors:

  • cold temperature: cold may have direct damaging effects on the tissue through
    vascular constriction and other mechanisms;
  • dose: the level of intensity of a risk factor over a specific duration;
    ∙ duration: the length of time a worker is exposed to a particular risk factor;
  • force: the physical effort a worker must exert to perform a particular movement
    or activity;
  • frequency: the number of repetitions of a complete sequence of tasks or
    movements of a process occurring per unit of time during a work cycle;
  • grip type: the posture of the hand required for a worker to grasp an object to
    perform a particular movement or activity. Different types of grips require the
    application of different force levels;
  • hand-arm vibration: the vibration that is transmitted from vibrating surfaces of
    objects such as hand tools, through the hands and arms;
  • local contact stresses: the results from physical pressure between body tissues
    and objects in the work environment such as tools, machinery, and products;
  • magnitude: the degree of exposure to a noted risk factor;
  • posture: refers to postures that are awkward. Postures are awkward when joints
    are held at or near the end of range of motion or muscle tension is required to
    hold the posture without movement;
  • repetition: the cyclical use of the same body tissues either as a repeated motion
    or as a repeated muscular effort without movement. Consideration is given to

o work cycle;
o work period; and
o work-recovery (rest) cycle;

  • static load: sustain a given level of muscle force/exertion for a duration of time,
    against gravity or against some other external force;
  • task variability: the degree to which the task remains unchanged thus causing
    loading of the same tissues in the same way;
  • unaccustomed activity: tissues not being acclimatized to the activities performed;
  • work cycle: an exertion period and a recovery (or smaller exertion) period
    necessary to complete one sequence of a task, before the sequence is repeated;
  • work-recovery (rest) cycle: the availability and distribution of breaks in a
    particular activity to allow the tissue to return to a resting state for recovery.”

The Advantages of Hiring a WCB Lawyer for Your RSI Claim

Understanding what type of repetitive strain injuries WorkSafeBC will compensate for and how compensation rates are determined can be complicated and time-consuming. Seeking legal advice from experienced professionals is crucial to protect your rights and interests.  A skilled WCB lawyer can help you understand your eligibility, guide you through the claims process and represent your case in any necessary appeals. A WCB Lawyer has expertise in repetitive strain injuries Claims and can assist you in getting the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to for your repetitive strain injury claim.

A WCB Lawyer can also help guide you through the process of filing or appealing a repetitive strain injury claim. Our knowledgeable WCB lawyers can help you navigate WSBC policies and processes related to repetitive strain injury claims.  Contact us by phone at (604) 591-8187 or by email at info@gosalandcompany.com