Doctors Tips for Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the Workplace
Thankfully, with vaccination levels increasing and Covid-19 rates dropping, many people are now returning to work after a year or more away. This month (June 2021) USA Today reported that in May employers added 559,000 jobs to the U.S. economy. And, according to U.S. Department of Labor Department statistics, the unemployment rate fell sharply from 6.1% to 5.8%.
As employees enthusiastically return to work, many employers are rethinking the way business is done. And – after a year off or a year working from home – many employees are now using the current labor shortages as a time to insist on better, safer workplace conditions.
One prevalent – but often preventable – workplace injury across many industries is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. We know that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is preventable in many cases because of statistics released by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). Workplace-related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome rates decreased by a whopping 77% from 1992 to 2009 – once employers began taking proactive steps to help prevent this condition.
However, according to MIOSHA, Michigan’s rate of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the workplace has always – and still does – exceed national rates. So there is still much room for improvement.
Why Employers Should Care About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
According to OSHA’s Safety Pays Program, the average direct cost to an employer of a workers’ carpal tunnel workplace injury is $28,647 per employee. These direct costs include medical bills and Workers Compensation payments.
The employer also suffers indirect costs of a carpal tunnel injury. These indirect costs include the expense of having to recruit, hire and train a replacement for the disabled worker, as well as any loss in productivity resulting from the employee’s absence due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
For this reason, it is a wise investment for the employer to implement workplace changes that can help prevent the occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome. Below experienced, board certified hand specialist Dr. Uzma Rehman presents 5 steps hand doctors recommend to minimize the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Steps to Reduce Carpal Tunnel Risk in the Workplace
If you are an employee in any occupation that requires repetitive, awkward or forceful motions of your hands and wrist, here are some steps you can request that your employer implement. These relatively simple adjustments to the workplace can help manufacturing workers, employees who do a great deal of typing or computer work, and many others prevent wrist pain and minimize the risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
#1. Redesign workstations to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Employers should consider redesigning workstations to enable worker’s wrist to maintain a natural position during work.
Unsuitable work station designs that do not take into account the size and proportions of the human body can result in awkward positioning of the body and wrist. Ideally, work stations should be adjustable in order to accommodate the vast majority of individual sizes of people who work in that area.
#2. Redesign tools to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Redesigning work methods and tools, to enable worker’s wrist to maintain a natural position without undue pressure or vibration.
For example, a recent study in a poultry processing plant found that workers using standard knives were prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, workers who started using knives with a bent handle, no longer needed to bend their wrists while cutting meat and were less prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.
#3. Provide work breaks to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Monotonous and repetitive strain on the wrist can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. A regular work-rest schedule relieves muscles from mechanical stress, and lessens the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome.
#4. Rotate jobs among workers to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Repetitive motion, pressure, strain, and/or vibration are the root cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Rotating tasks that involve these activities can go a long way toward preventing carpal tunnel syndrome in individual employees.
#5. Implement worker training to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Implementing worker training informing employees about the risk factors that can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome is important.
Educate workers on the importance of on-the-job conditioning, performing stretching exercises, taking frequent rest breaks, and adopting correct posture and proper wrist position.
Top Detroit Area Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Doctor
If you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, or any injury or pain in your fingers, wrist, elbow or arm, contact board certified Detroit area hand surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. As with all medical conditions, early detection and a prevention or treatment plan is the most effective way to combat carpal tunnel syndrome, and ensure you regain full use of your hand.
Doctor Rehman will assess your individual situation, and prescribe the treatments that are best for your condition.