Excessive use of computer keyboard causes member to develop strain injury

A Unite member has been awarded £30,000 in damages after developing a repetitive strain injury from excessive use of a computer keyboard.

The 31-year-old woman suffered a strain injury to her right wrist while working as a charity administrator, where she would spend up to eight hours a day entering data onto a computer.

Her duties included taking handwritten notes at meetings, which she would then type up onto a computer as well as setting up appointments through email. As the amount of work increased, she started working through her lunch break and for up to two hours after her shift was meant to have finished.

All computers within the facility were fitted with software that monitored keyboard usage, however, staff would be told by managers to switch it off in order to get more work done.

When the Unite member started to suffer from pains in her wrist she visited her doctor who confirmed that she had developed a repetitive strain injury. She had to take three months off work and after this time she went back on a phased return. However, she had to take further time off because of the pain in her hands, and she was subsequently made redundant.

Her injury prevents her from working full-time on a computer so she is now in academic study, which allows her to have a more flexible approach to work.

The member contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a claim for compensation.

She said: “When I first started getting the pains in my wrist I couldn’t understand what was happening. It was taken for granted that we would be working on computers all day, above and beyond our working hours, and we weren’t ever told about the dangers of excessive use of a keyboard.

“The pain has made things like getting dressed extremely difficult, and I’ve had to adapt my daily routine around my injury. If it wasn’t for the support of Unite Legal Services, I wouldn’t have been able to move on with my life and for that I’m extremely grateful.”

Peter Kavanagh, regional secretary from Unite the Union, said: “The fact that the employer actively told staff to go around a programme that was created to protect them completely defeats the object of having it in the first place. As her workload increased, our member began to develop a painful injury which her employer should have taken responsibility for sooner.

“Fortunately, our member has since been able to move on, but the pain in her wrist remains and it may not subside for years, all because of the lack of care of her employer.”