Office-Related Illnesses and Injuries

Just as the hazards of the office are different from the industrial workplace, so are the injuries that can result.

Repetitive motion injuries. Also known as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), these are injuries that build slowly over time to the point of becoming a painful injury to an employee. They occur when an employee performs the same task in the same range of motion over a long period of time without taking proper precautions to make sure that no injury occurs.

The most common cumulative trauma disorder is known as carpal tunnel syndrome, and it is a painful injury that can debilitate the hands, wrists, and arms of an employee. Carpal tunnel syndrome stems primarily from the repetitive motions of typing and computer work. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the frequent bending of the wrist causes tendons or tissue to swell in the tunnel formed by the carpal bones and the ligament, pinching the median nerve that gives feeling to the hand. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include burning or painful tingling in a hand or shooting pains up an arm.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is not unique to computer operators. All types of workers who perform repetitive tasks are at risk for developing the condition including garment workers, butchers, grocery checkers, electronics assembly workers, typists, musicians, packers, housekeepers, cooks, and carpenters.

Other illnesses. Other illnesses associated with office automation, and computer usage in particular, that are reported more often by computer users than by nonusers include:

Some are concerned that the radiation emitted from computer monitors might also cause cataracts and birth defects.

If you have employees who do the type of work that may make them prone to repetitive stress injuries or other automation-related illnesses, your best bet for protecting yourself and your employees is to take preventative measures.