Unison’s aches, pains and strains campaign

28 February 2019 was national RSI – or repetitive strain injury – awareness day and Unison is taking the opportunity to launch a campaign for better management of all musculoskeletal injuries.

The union has conducted research into a random sample of 50 claims made by UNISON members that have occurred because of musculoskeletal injuries.

We found that 90% of such claims were caused by basic failings in risk assessments, while 21% of the claims were caused by staffing difficulties, with staff often being forced, to single-handedly manually lift loads that required two people or more to do it.

And one of the most common reasons regulatory bodies have to take enforcement action against employers is when equipment such as slings or hoists is poorly fitted or maintained.

UNISON’s acting national head of health and safety Robert Baughan said: “This shows employers too frequently failing to carry out their basic health and safety duties.

“It also shows the damage this government’s austerity agenda – and the resulting staffing cuts – is doing to our members’ health and safety.”

Members and reps can help to reduce injuries by:

  • becoming or recruiting safety reps – the more safety reps we have, the more effectively we can hold employers to account’
  • complying with any health and safety guidance and instructions from employers;

Health and safety reps should be calling on employers to:

  • carry out robust risk assessments;
  • where possible, eliminate the need for manual handling by providing mechanical aides;
  • where this is not possible, reduce the risk by minimising manual handling or ensuring there are sufficient staff to safety manage difficult or heavy loads;
  • providing suitable, appropriate and well-maintained equipment, such as adjustable visual display units and chairs, and well-maintained and appropriate lifting aides such as slings and hoists.

A useful aches, pains and strains leaflet is available for members to download – aches, pains and strains – member leaflet

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