RSI Health and Safety Comments

Question: Is the argument that the employer is underfunded a good enough excuse for them to ignore their duties under EU and UK health and safety laws? Is using the system whereby the employee chases the employer to do something acceptable? Or has the employer got a duty to be proactive in prevention? Comments would be welcomed!

Comment 1: Someone mentioned an organisation/group called ‘dis-forum’ a while ago and I passed the name on to our disabled students’ officer. Now, unsurprisingly, she would like some more info. Can’t remember where this originated – can anyone help please?

Comment 2: My employer has, as I have probably said before, refused permission for a survey of RSI to be carried out here on the basis that ‘(he) did not want to raise the awareness of RSI in the University’!! Love the idea that there are employers out there who care more than this! My workstation assessment involved filling a form to see if the screen was at the right height etc, which had already been done ages ago, when what I need is s/o to advise me whether I would be better with a short k/b, no mouse etc etc – to look at my problems and help to solve them. Then I was given a catalogue from our regular supplier and told to look for something in it. The fact that they only supply one type of ‘ergonomic’ k/b and no mouse alternatives didn’t seem to be relevant! The assessment seemed to just be in order to say that it had been done, not with any intention to see how MY workstation needed to be improved to help ME! There are people working here with callouses on their hands from mouse use and we must not raise awareness!! I suppose it could be worse – I could be working down a mine or climbing up chimneys!

Comment 3: What you say re the law more or less confirms what I thought. The end of your message, re H & S, particularly interests me. There is no H & S union rep in place here at present, which has in the last few months delayed my attempts to get help from the union. However, only yesterday, another union cttee member proposed that I become the H & S rep and I’m seriously considering it. He suggested it would be a good basis from which to start a support group.

Comment 4: All my sympathies! My employers were pretty slow to act, but not as bad as this. I think perhaps employers need to be educated *differently* in how to deal with RSI, or educated in how to deal with RSI differently, I’m not sure which.

Comment 5: Your scenario sounds exactly the same as mine! They assessed it according to the manual and said it was finding despite me saying it was unsuitable for me! I was then told to go to the computing department and ask for a catalogue and find something that might help! The catalogue I was given was two years out-of-date! Letters from doctors etc… seems to have had little impact. I am now plodding on through the help of the union! How many people have their computers security cuffed at work – I was unable to get mine shifted to a health and safety ideal position to start with!

Comment 6: It is so crazy!!! As an analogy, if you had only three types of car to choose from and you said none of them felt comfortable, people would go, ‘of course, there is so much variety and possibility.’ i.e. they are open minded about it. Start talking RSI, computers and ergonomics and it’s like a shutter drops. I have been at dinner parties, at social occasions, in shops…across the world, and have heard the most incredible comments, from non-sufferers, on RSI. Because it is invisible, it is ‘in the head, it is laziness, it is a bludge’ (off the taxpayer). It never fails to amaze or anger me. While I am lucky in that I can control my RSI and pretty much lead a normal life (and put forward a damn good argument at the dinner table!), this blinkered view from companies is just a continuation of the determination to ignore RSI and belittle those who suffer and it is disgusting!

I’m sorry, I know this is not helpful or constructive, but I have been watching this dialogue and it just makes my blood boil!!!! You have my very best wishes in your action against your company. A thought: Is this determination by organisations to ignore it, or disclaim responsibility, an echo of the tobacco industry’s refusing to admit smoking is harmful???

Comment 7: Our computers are not security cuffed (perhaps I didn’t say that!) but the desks are joined in units of four and the cable entry points are in the corners so my cables aren’t long enough to move the computer from the corner. Interestingly one catalogue gives all the equipment to help including straightening out corners but all their ‘ergonomic’ desks show the computers set up like ours! I find keyboarding and mousing across a corner a pain as there is nowhere to rest my hands and I have to work with my arm pulled back to use the mouse next to the k/b – but I am working on changing this.

Comment 8: Is your monitor not directly in front of you? Having to look to the side to see your monitor is very bad indeed — it’s likely to cause tendonitis in the elbow of the arm on the opposite side of your body from the side the computer is on. As for mousing across a corner – words fail me. I suggest you ring the local branch of the HSE and ask them for advice. Before doing that (if you decide to do it), you might want to download the HSE’s leaflet about VDUs. It has illustrations of how the legislation says that the workstation is supposed to be set up. Also go to your local Job Centre and ask urgently to see the Disability Employment Advisor re getting PACT in to assess your workstation needs. 

Comment 9: Yes, it was from me. It’s a mail base newsgroup. There are lots of excellent ones which most of the academics on this list will know of, dis-forum and dyslexia, as well as groups for hearing impaired students, etc. The mail base site has excellent search & archive facilities as well

Comment 10: I am lucky in that my employer takes its responsibilities seriously. This week we had a visit from a physiotherapist. She was using a catalogue from Posturite who have a web page from which you can order catalogues or products.

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