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RSI

Friday, May 22, 1998 Published at 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK

UK

RSI victory for bank workers

RSI: Many people believe it does not exist

Five former bank workers who suffered from Repetitive Strain Injury have been awarded £50,000 in compensation after winning a landmark court case.

The former Midland Bank staff said they had suffered "considerable pain" in their arms, necks and shoulders after their work rate was increased.

Judge Byrt, at the Mayor's and City of London Court agreed, finding that the bank was in breach of its duty of care to its employees.

He awarded each of the women, who were based at the bank's processing centre in Surrey, £7,000 each, saying they had been left disabled in the home and unable to carry out simple tasks.

This landmark ruling is a major victory for medical experts, employees and trade unionists who argue that Repetitive Strain Injuries should be recognised by UK employers.

'Pressure of work'
During the six week case earlier in the year, the women argued that they had to make thousands of key strokes every hour on their keyboards. Combined with the pressure at work and lack of sufficient breaks, the women began suffering upper limb disorders. In his ruling, Judge Byrt agreed that the "considerable pain" in their right arms, necks and shoulders was caused by the workload. He added it was unlikely that any of them would be able to return to similar jobs.

RSI DIVIDES MEDICAL OPINION
Those prone to suffer from RSI work on assembly lines or in front of computer screens for long periods. There is much debate about the nature and cause of the condition.

The symptoms of RSI include swelling, tenderness, numbness, muscle spasms, pins and needles and weakness, mainly in hands, wrists and arms.

Some doctors have argued that the name is misleading because it is not caused by repetition, but persistent tension in the muscles.

Others suggest it is caused by psychological, rather than physical, factors. In civil cases, a complainant has to prove that the employer breached their duty of care. Last year, 2000 workers received more than £10,000 each in compensation. The biggest compensation payout ever was £250,000 to a bank worker.

Children at Risk

Children learning to use computers are being put at risk of permanent injury, some health experts are warning.

They say thousands of children have already been damaged by medical problems associated with the operation of computers.

"I think we are on a threshold of what could be a global disaster"
Dr Leon Straker

These problems - neck, back and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) - have long been recognised as being linked to prolonged computer use and incorrect posture in adults.

As yet, no significant research into the risks of RSI among children, who spend hours on computers doing homework or playing games, has been carried out in the UK.

But doctors are reporting an increasing number of children complaining of computer-related injuries.

Muscles and bones

Dr Leon Straker, who is researching the problem in Australia, believes the future is bleak for UK children unless more work is carried out to tackle such injuries.

"I think we are on a threshold of what could be a global disaster," he said.

"This is the first generation of children who have used computers from early childhood while their muscles and bones are developing. "If we don't get knowledge quickly about how to use computers safely, then I think we will see a lot of children disabled from using computers."

Dr Straker's research at Curtin University in Perth involves using electrodes and mirrors wired to a computer to monitor children's movements when they are using a mouse or keyboard.

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