Repetitive stress injuries, also known as repetitive strain injuries or RSI, are far more common then you may think. For employees who put stress on a specific area of the body for hours a day at work, such as the hand, shoulders, upper or lower back, it’s important to regularly take pressure off the stressed area. Job rotation is one of the most effective prevention protocols that can be put in place to eliminate the risk before an injury arises.
Without, putting a preventative measure in place, RSI can lead to chronic pain and inflammation, and if left untreated this type of workplace injury can cause long term issues and degenerative problems. Job rotation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent repetitive strain injuries from happening in the first place.
Who is at risk of repetitive strain injuries?
Repetitive strain injuries can impact workers in almost any industry – trucking and driving, manufacturing, mining, cleaning, packaging, computing, and even entertainment. From the strain from typing for prolonged periods of time, to the stress put on the knees, back, and shoulders when having to lift and move heavy objects, repeating the same motion can damage tendons, muscles, nerves, or even bone, leading to musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and bursitis.
The problem is, once you start to experience those early symptoms of a repetitive strain injury, the body can’t continue performing the same tasks. RSI can start with numbness, stiffness, weakness, or a tingling sensation. It then develops into pain and discomfort. Over time, the repetitive motion can damage tissue and nerves. Nerves, in particular, often take a long time to heal which is why prevention is so important.
What causes RSI?
The source of RSI is often repetition or doing the same task or movement over and over again. If you work for long hours, lack variety in the type of work that you perform, or if you are required to hold your muscles in a sustained position for an extended period of time, overuse injuries are a real risk. Taking breaks during the day and making sure your workplace is ergonomically suited for your body can help to prevent RSI from occurring, but rotating tasks is the most effective way to minimise the risk and prevent the damage before it starts.
What is job rotation and what are the benefits?
Job rotation is more than just getting up from your desk to stop typing for half an hour while you have a meeting with co-workers, or working at a different workstation from time to time. It’s a structured plan to ensure workers are rotating between jobs and workstations on a regular basis.
The goal with job rotation is to make sure that workers aren’t doing the same task for long periods of time but rather are working in intervals, changing the muscles used, the positioning, and the pressure on their joints, tendons, and nerves.
There are more benefits to job rotation than just reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Rotating jobs also can help to:
- Improved employee skillsets as workers are required to practice different tasks throughout the shift
- Reducing mindless movement that could potentially cause an injury or incident
- Foster a more flexible workforce
- Reduce exposure especially when workers are required to perform high risk tasks
- Reduce absenteeism
- Boost engagement and productivity
How to get started
Job rotation is a proactive approach to workplace safety. In order to implement an effective job rotation program within your workplace, the first step is to identify the roles or tasks that are highly repetitive. The second step is to identify if a specific skill set is required to perform each of the tasks.
From there it’s important to work out how long the intervals should be and how best to implement the program. Operational efficiency needs to be taking into consideration.
It’s a good idea to have someone who is qualified in occupational health to help assess which tasks are the most high-risk, how long intervals should be on each task, and to recommend any ways to improve the ergonomics of the task to prevent an injury in the first place.
Once you have a job rotation system in place, workers should rotate tasks throughout the day. For example, in a manufacturing plant, some workers may start the day operating one type of machinery for a set number of hours before switching to a different type of machinery that requires a different muscle group. The objective is to make sure muscles groups, such as the upper arms and shoulders, trunk and lower back, the wrist and fingers, each have time to rest.
A manager or designated employee can manage the job rotation sequence and keep track of how well the process is working. If workers are still having problems with certain muscle groups, changes can be made to the frequency of rotation or the time intervals.
Rotating jobs can make a huge impact on the long-term physical health and wellbeing of your employees. For any help identifying where your workers may be at risk, speak to Bodycare today.