Work Related Upper Limb Disorder
Upper limb disorders (ULDs) affect the arms, from fingers to shoulder, and neck. They are often called repetitive strain injuries (RSI), cumulative trauma disorder or occupational overuse syndrome.
What are ULDs?
Upper limb disorders (ULDs):
- are aches, pains, tension and disorders involving any part of the arm from fingers to shoulder, or the neck;
- include problems with the soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments, along with the circulatory and nerve supply to the limb; and
- are often caused or made worse by work.
If an employer actively addresses and assists their employee in managing their upper limb disorders, there are obvious benefits including increased efficiency in work, fewer sick days, lower staff turnover and retraining costs, reduced risk of litigation by the employee and lower compensation/insurance costs to the employer.
Upper Limb Disorders can be successfully managed at work by assessing the risk, introducing changes and improvements to work areas and tools/equipment that may cause ULDs.
If you feel there are risks of ULDs in the workplace, it is beneficial to actively collect early reports of any symptoms your employees may have, and address these as quickly as possible. This is commonly known as health monitoring in the workplace.
Upper Limb Disorders in the Workplace can be task-related or specific to one individual.
Early detection of any ULD issues in the workpace can determine how serious the injury becomes, as early detection and practical task changes or retraining on using certain repetitive machinery in a better way may alleviate or reduce the symptoms of ULDs dramatically.
What are the symptoms?
- aches and pain
What causes a ULD?
- Repetitive work
- Uncomfortable working postures
- Sustained or excessive force
- Carrying out a task for a long period of time
- Poor working environment and organisation (eg temperature, lighting and work pressure, job demands, work breaks or lack of them)
- Individual differences and susceptibility (some workers are more affected by certain risks)
The way the work is organised and managed can make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of ULDs as well as make them worse.
Workers may be more likely to suffer an upper limb problem if exposed to more than one risk factor.
Caused or made worse by work, some of the most common work related upper limb disorders seen in compensation claims include:
- Trigger Finger Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Diffuse repetitive strain injury
- Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)
- Vibration white finger (VWF)
- Peritendinitis crepitans
An upper limb disorder can be diagnosed as a work-related upper limb disorder if it can be proven that the injury was caused by a work related process or activity.
Types of occupations that are commonly associated with work related upper limb disorder include, but are not limited to:-
- Construction Worker
- Keyboard Operator/Typist
- Assembly line worker
- Kitchen staff/Chefs
If you report your symtoms to your employer once work related upper limb disorder has been diagnosed by a physician, your employer can then make changes to your work conditions and/or work practices to alleviate and improve your symptoms.