Strained muscles and sprained joints remain the most common workplace injuries in America, but a new government study says carpal tunnel syndrome is far more likely to keep a worker off the job.
And those afflicted by those debilitating pains in the wrist are far more likely to be women than men.
A new survey of on-the-job injuries conducted by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says half the workers afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome in 1995 missed at least 30 days of work.
The median number of workdays lost due to a strain or sprain was five.
The BLS survey of private sector businesses found that more than 2 million workplace injuries were reported in 1995, with about 25 percent of those injuries keeping workers off the job for 21 days or longer.
And while twice as many men than women missed work due to a job-related injury, women suffered 70 percent of all carpal tunnel syndrome work losses.
Secretaries, data-entry workers and other keyboard operators accounted for only 22 percent of the carpal tunnel syndrome cases. An equal percentage came from workers who operated machinery such as sewing machines, while 57 percent worked on assembly lines, in construction jobs or at checkout counters.
Repetitive motion was listed as the cause of virtually all carpal tunnel syndrome cases, and the BLS survey singled out assembly line workers as having a particularly high chance of suffering carpal tunnel syndrome.
The survey said that while assemblers make up just 1.3 percent of the private sector employment total, they accounted for 8 percent of the carpal tunnel syndrome cases.
Other high-risk jobs cited by the BLS included grasping and unraveling bolts of cloth, scanning groceries, typing or key entry and cutting meat or poultry on an assembly line.
The BLS said the number of workdays missed due to an injury can vary widely, depending on injury severity, individual recuperation times and the availability of light or restricted work activities such as non-typing duties for persons recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been studying carpal tunnel syndrome and related repetitive motion injuries for several years.
Two years ago, however, Congressional Republicans delayed implementation of a set of standards that OSHA had hoped would reduce the number of ergonomic injuries.
The Senate narrowly defeated several House-passed measures that would have banned OSHA from even studying such injuries on the grounds that not enough scientific research had been done.