Frank T. Conway, Ph.D. State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Worker's Compensation Division
The introduction of computers into office work has changed the nature of work. Intensive computerized office work can require repetitive motions of the wrist/hand as well as prolonged static body postures. Repetitive motion and static posture have been related to increased musculoskeletal discomfort in research studies (see for example Sauter, Schleifer, and Knutson 1991) and reviews of the literature ( Bernard et al. 1997; Carter and Banister 1994). Over a long period of time, discomfort from computer use can result in lost work time and an employee may require rest or medical intervention to alleviate the discomfort. A common diagnosis for inflammation of the tendons in the wrist is referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS has been studied in relation to biological changes in the wrist ( Armstrong, Castelli, Evans, and Diaz-Perez 1984), occupational factors ( Silverstein, Fine, and Armstrong 1987), and outcomes of carpal tunnel surgery ( Adams, Franklin, and Barnhart 1994).
Carpal tunnel syndrome was listed as the nature of injury for 1,595 claims that were first closed in 1997, with a lost wage compensation cost of $5,880,422 ( Frisch, 1999). Combining these injuries with the classification for all other cumulative injuries (1,327 claims with a lost wage compensation of $13,510,462) shows that cumulative injuries have a significant cost to employees in the State of Wisconsin. Repetitive motion was listed as the cause of 2,080 injuries for claims first closed in 1997, with a lost wage compensation of $4,863,686. This provides some background for the severity of repetitive motion claims in the State of Wisconsin. However, there are other classifications that could also indicate that a claim was due to repetitive motion factors, which may be missed when reporting the amounts associated with one specific coding of claims. This paper will endeavor to examine how computer work related injuries are distributed in data entry keying operators, which is a field that often has many repetitive motion injuries. These claims will be examined completely to verify those claims that were related to repetitive keying. This exploratory procedure will determine what the common descriptions are for these claims and generate a listing of these descriptions. This listing will be used to draw against the entire database of