The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged union safety representatives to use legal powers to inspect workplaces for the risks of repetitive strain injury (RSI), after new figures revealed that one in 50 workers are now affected.
Last year 5.4 million sick days were taken due to RSI and more than half a million UK employees, some 506,000, now suffer from the symptoms, which include pain and immobility in the joints, nerves and muscles from the fingers to the neck.
Peter Skyte, national secretary of IT union MSF, warned that employers are still not taking the issue seriously enough.
"There's a very real need for companies to carry out risk assessments," he said. "Our approach would be a preventative one rather than dealing with symptoms once they occur. But in too many cases employers are leaving staff to their own devices."
Health and Safety Executive minister Alan Whitehead will issue revised guidance on how to prevent RSI at a conference in the TUC's central London headquarters to mark Thursday's International RSI Awareness Day.
Bill Fine, senior consultant at charity AbilityNet, explained that today's working practices and developments in technology, particularly workflow and imaging systems, mean that people are spending extended periods of time at their desks thereby aggravating the problem.
"The most well understood causal factors are repetition, poor body position and static posture, and clearly it can define most computer jobs," he said.
"There is a tendency to approach this issue from an ergonomics point of view but, as long as we have a culture where it's the users' responsibility to adapt to the computer, we will always have problems," he added.
Meanwhile, mobile phone users with a penchant for texting are being warned of a new 'strain' of RSI - text message injury - which medical experts warn could cause health problems in later life.
Virgin Mobile, half owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, has launched a 'safe text' campaign to safeguard UK mobile phone users who sent a staggering 12.2 billion text messages last year.
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