By: Shawn Budden Shawn Budden is an Ergonomist with WCB Nova Scotia. He works with employers and industry groups to help prevent workplace injuries. February 29 (a fitting, non-repetitive day), or February 28 on non-leap years, is the international day to promote awareness and prevention for repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), also known as musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). In 2021, sprains and strains accounted for 3,462 (or 64.2 per cent) of all of the time loss claims registered with WCB Nova Scotia. The good news is, most MSIs are easily preventable. Learn more about the risks and how to prevent them in your workplace below. What are MSIs? The term MSI is used to classify injuries caused by excess demand on the soft tissues of the body. This includes tendons, muscles, or nerves, with injuries regularly involving the neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists. Common injuries are carpal tunnel syndrome and lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow”. Risk Factors Any physical task that is performed regularly has a degree of risk for developing an MSI. In Nova Scotia, these types of injuries are common for workers in health care, construction, fishing, or any field where lifting, exertion or repetitive tasks are integral to the job. Movements such as reaching, gripping, and lifting occur every day and do not typically result in injury, but risk of injury increases when these movements involve one or more of the following factors: Frequent repetition, or doing the same movement over and over again Improper posture Managing heavy physical loads Inadequate breaks Signs and Symptoms In addition to understanding the risk factors for MSIs, it’s important to identify the warning signs early. Work adjustments and treatments are more successful when applied during the initial stages of injury. Signs and symptoms can include: Pain Joint stiffness Muscles aches Redness and swelling Numbness and tingling If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of an MSI, talk to your employer or health and safety representative about making accommodations as soon as possible, and seek medical attention if necessary. Prevention Most MSIs are preventable with a few simple adjustments to your workspace and routines. Education and awareness Awareness is the first step to reducing the occurrence and severity of MSIs. Talk with colleagues and employees about the risk factors and warning signs. WCB Nova Scotia has lots of great resources to help facilitate conversations about the importance prevention in your workplace. Hazard Identification and Control Workstations and jobs can be assessed to minimize or eliminate risk factors through design (i.e. mechanical lifts) or controls such as job rotation to reduce worker fatigue. Our Risk Mapping Tool will help you identify problems areas and possible solutions. Training Employees should understand controls and how to adjust workstations to reduce the likelihood of fatigue and injury. Download our MSI Prevention Guide to get started. You can follow along as I take you through the guide and show you how to apply simple and effective changes in your workplace: To learn more about MSIs and how they can be prevented, please visit: Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety WCB Nova Scotia Association of Canadian Ergonomists Return to Work Safe, healthy work can often be an important part of recovery from workplace injury. Most sprains and strains can be treated right away, sometimes on the same day with a WCB-approved health care provider. If you’re able to stay at work or return to work during your recovery, your health care provider will help determine what work you can safely do. Learn more at wcb.ns.ca/WorkingtoWell .