Repetitive use injuries and workers’ compensation in Maryland

People who experience repetitive use injuries in the workplace may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Workplace injuries are not always sudden events, such as a construction worker falling off a ladder or a driver getting into a car accident. Sometimes, people in Maryland develop an injury over time due to moving a certain way over and over again.

These are known as repetitive use or repetitive stress injuries, and they may do a great deal of damage to people who experience them. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the more than 24,000 incidents of repetitive motion in 2015, the median number of days the employee missed work is 22. It is essential to be able to identify these injuries and know what to do about them.

What is a repetitive stress injury?

Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are those that occur to do a repetitive motion. Often, they stem from activities that are not inherently dangerous. For example, someone who types all day long could be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a common RSI.

Many other types of activities could lead to an RSI, such as the following:

  • Scanning groceries
  • Working on an assembly line
  • Grasping tools
  • Stocking shelves

Essentially, anyone required to perform repeated movements could be at risk of developing an RSI.

In order for the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission to consider whether a particular job has caused a repetitive use type injury the injured worker's physician must indicate the causal connection between the job and the claimed injury.

How are RSI prevented?

Employers may take several steps to keep workers safe from developing these types of injuries. For example, providing breaks is key, allowing for employees to stretch and give their bodies a break from the motion.

Additionally, using ergonomics may prevent an injury. Simply adjusting the height of a keyboard or computer screen may put less strain on a worker. Workstations should be designed and kept with the employee's comfort in mind.

Workers should research stretching exercises that target the body part that is constantly in use. Taking a five-minute break every hour or so to perform the stretch may counterbalance the overuse.