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Workplace Accommodations for Upper Extremity Conditions

accommodation ergonomics Apr 05, 2023
Workplace Accommodations for Upper Extremity Conditions


For individuals with upper extremity conditions, performing everyday tasks can be a challenge. Upper extremity conditions are one of the most common work-related injuries. They include injuries of the muscles, tendons, joints, and nerves that affect the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Common injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, and rotator cuff injuries. These conditions can result in pain, reduced range of motion, and decreased strength, which can make it difficult for individuals to perform their job duties. The impact on work can be significant. Injuries affect productivity, absences, and overall employee well-being, ultimately resulting in decreased costs for employers.

Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that their employees can perform their job duties safely and effectively. One way to achieve this is by providing workplace accommodations that meet the needs of individuals with upper extremity conditions. When it comes to accommodating employees in the workplace, there are several key strategies that employers should keep in mind.


Tips for Accommodating Employees with Upper Extremity Conditions


Implement ergonomic design principles

Ergonomic principles are essential for individuals with upper extremity conditions. Ergonomics involves designing workstations and tools to fit the individual, reducing the risk of injury, and improving overall productivity. In office environments, this can include providing ergonomic chairs and desks, adjusting the height of workstations, and ensuring that equipment is positioned in a way that reduces strain on the upper extremities. In manufacturing workplaces, employers can consider the use of assistive devices, such as lifting aids or mechanical assist tools, to reduce the physical demands on employees. Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and stretches is also recommended. Employers can benefit from consulting with an ergonomics specialist to help identify areas for improvement and to develop customized solutions to meet the needs of employees.


Understand the limitations of the employee

Employers should work closely with the employee's healthcare provider to determine their capabilities and restrictions. This can include conducting ergonomic assessments that will help the employee perform their job duties safely and effectively. The information gained can be used to identify suitable accommodations that meet the needs of the employee.


Provide assistive technology

Depending on the nature of the upper extremity condition, employers may need to provide assistive technology to help their employees perform their job duties. This can include voice recognition software, specialized keyboards and mice, and other tools that reduce the need for manual dexterity.


Provide job training and education

Employers should provide training and education to employees with upper extremity conditions to ensure they understand how to use the ergonomic tools and equipment provided. This can also include training for all employees on safe work practices and techniques to minimize the risk of injury.


Modify job duties

Employers can modify job duties to accommodate employees with upper extremity conditions. This may involve adjusting the physical demands of the job or providing alternative tasks that do not require the use of the affected limb. Consider rotating employees through different tasks to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.


Offer flexible work arrangements

Employers can offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flexible work schedules, to accommodate employees with upper extremity conditions. This can help to reduce the physical demands of commuting and improve overall productivity.


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

At Gowan Consulting, we know the importance of creating workplaces that are inclusive, accommodating, and supportive of all employees, regardless of their physical abilities. Our services can help employers promote a healthy, safe, and productive environment.

  • Make a referral for an ergonomic or accommodation assessment so our Occupational Therapists can help your employees with upper extremity conditions.
  • Check out our training library, which includes live workshops, certificate programs, and recorded webinars for employees and employers.
  • Set up a consultation with us to develop a customized session or program for your workplace needs.
  • Looking for sustainable training and support for program development for your organization? Our membership program is for you!
  • For more on all we have to offer, contact us! We want to help make the difference in your healthy business.