Tennis elbow, writer’s block and even athlete’s foot are problems than can cause considerable discomfort and more than a little embarrassment. Adding to the list of potential health hazards, the widespread use of hand-held devices at work has spawned a new condition.
”BlackBerry thumb’’ is the name given to a repetitive strain injury caused by overusing mobile phones to send emails and texts.
The condition is so common that one law firm believes employers can expect a series of lawsuits from staff claiming compensation.
Karen Jackson, a co-founder of the solicitors Roberts Jackson, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, said: “If no one knows about the risks involved, they won’t sue, but more and more people are becoming aware of health hazards in the workplace.
”’BlackBerry thumb’ is the overuse of a mobile phone for work purposes and we envisage potential work in this area as more people are using their handsets when they’re on the move, which is leading to repetitive strain injury.
“A lot of people displaying symptoms associated with repetitive strain injury do not realise they are work-related, but the number with symptoms is increasing.”
The firm is increasing its staff numbers to cope with what it believes will be a sharp rise in ”BlackBerry thumb’’ claims.
Traditionally, industrial disease claims have related to asthma, asbestos-related illnesses, dermatitis, allergies and occupational deafness and tinnitus. Another relatively new industrial injury is ”Popcorn lungs’’, or bronchiolitis obliterans, which can strike employees working in popcorn factories.
Some popcorn flavouring contains diacetyl, a chemical used to produce the butter-like taste. Over-exposure can cause lung damage.
Miss Jackson said: “There was a recent action in America that resulted in workers in a popcorn factory making a claim against their employers because they weren’t given the proper safety equipment, including masks when making popcorn.
“Employers need to be more aware of what they are exposing their employers to, and popcorn lung is an example of new types of industrial disease actions.
“We are also anticipating more actions against hairdressers. A recent study by the Health And Safety Executive reported that up to 70 per cent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage, such as dermatitis, at some point during their career.
”Most cases are absolutely preventable if the right health and safety rules are followed.”