Do your employees lift or move heavy items? Do they use handheld technology or tools? Do they repeat the same motions over and over? Do any of your workers experience pains related to work tasks?  If “yes” was the answer to any of the above, your employees are most likely dealing with repetitive strain injuries in the warehouse… which also means it may be time to upgrade your workforce handheld technologies to wearable devices.

Let’s dive into the risk factors, symptoms, and methods to prevent RSI’s, otherwise known as cumulative trauma disorders that can incur heavy costs to your operations.

Why do Warehouse Workers suffer from RSI?


Repetitive strain injury in the warehouse is a common problem with approx. 1.8 million workers suffering from ergonomic related injuries each year. More specifically, 69% of all warehouse workers suffer from RSI each year due to use of handheld mobile barcode readers/ RF scanning devices, costing an average of $405 USD per worker per year. These stats are overwhelming and will only continue to increase as productivity goals of operations rise to due increased consumer demand of shipped goods.

OSHA states that poor ergonomic designs and improper lifting practices are a common causes of injury for warehouse employees. Musculoskeletal disorders are commonplace and arise due to workers straining their bodies while repeating awkward, physically demanding tasks. In addition, the back and knees undergo isolated movements from lifting and twisting, which lead to further complications of RSI.

Here are a few risk factors for work-related repetitive motion injuries:

Repeated Movements:  Raising the arm up and down with heavy barcode readers, lifting and loading boxes onto racks, picking heavy items without handles, and torquing the body to lift heavy materials can strain muscles, tendons and ligaments. Risks are compounded when repeated over long, repeated shifts.
Awkward Motion – Twisting and reaching overhead to get materials from racks and bins, reaching down or stooping to load and unload boxes can also lead to injuries. This often comes from improper training technique.
Forceful-Fast Movement – Overexerting muscles, even in micro-movements like pinching or bending heavy handheld barcode readers or mobile phones at the wrist enhance RSI
Lack of Rest – When regulation breaks are not taken by warehouse workers, they both violate OSHA standards while also not giving themselves ample time to rest the body.

Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injuries In The Warehouse and Supply Chain

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RSI and RMI injuries are excruciating to employees and costly to operations. While there are bandaid solutions to alleviate pain in the short term, failure to fix the root of the problem will bring greater risks to employees long term.

Symptoms of RSI located in the back, arms, neck, and shoulders:

  • Pain

  • Tingling

  • Numbness

  • Weakness

The above symptoms are often ignored at first as they gradually and slowly worsen over time. Untreated or ignored symptoms exacerbate and are more difficult to treat over time.

The good news: many of these disorders can be prevented entirely

Preventing Repetitive Strain Injuries In The Warehouse

Here are a few ergonomic standards to practice within your warehouse operations:

  • Replace heavy, cumbersome handheld barcode scanner with lightweight, ergonomic wearables: the Rufus Cuff + Rufus Ring

  • Organize the most frequented items on shelves at a height between the range of the shoulders and knees

  • Utilize Android or wearable friendly based WMS and ERP systems in conjunction with wearable interfaces to decrease warehouse worker processes, reduce employee workstation strain, and boost productivity and accuracy.

Take a look at our previous posts, “4 Reasons to Ditch Handhelds and Go Wearable” and How to Retain and Attract a Superhuman Workforce” for even more tips to improve the safety and happiness of your warehouse employees!

To learn how Rufus can reduce repetitive strain in your warehouse, contact us for a free demo!