Addressing Repetitive Strain Injuries in Brazil

According to the Brazilian Social Security, more than 600,000 workers were granted disability benefits due to repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMD) between 2011 and 2021. However, this number does not reflect the true extent of the problem, as many cases are not reported or recognized as work-related. Moreover, RSI and WRMD can also cause psychological distress, moral harassment, and social exclusion for the affected workers.

But how did repetitive strain injuries and work-related musculoskeletal disorders become a public health issue in Brazil? And what are the workers doing to prevent and cope with this condition? These questions were addressed in a recent online event organized by the Fundacentro, a public institution dedicated to occupational health and safety. The event brought together researchers, health professionals, labor activists, and legal experts to share their experiences and perspectives on repetitive strain injuries and work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

The event highlighted the historical and collective dimension of repetitive strain injuries and work-related musculoskeletal disorders, which emerged in the 1980s as a result of the intensification and precarization of work. The speakers recalled the role of the workers’ movement, the civil society organizations, and the public institutions in denouncing, investigating, and intervening in the workplaces where RSI/WRMD were prevalent, such as the banking, metalworking, and telemarketing sectors.

The event also discussed the current challenges and opportunities for the prevention and treatment of RSI/WRMD, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the home office, and the digital platforms. The speakers emphasized the need for a comprehensive and participatory approach to ergonomics, as well as the importance of strengthening the public policies and services for workers’ health.

The event was part of the activities of the National Day of Struggle against Repetitive Strain Injuries and Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, which is celebrated on February 28th in Brazil. The date was chosen in memory of the first national meeting of workers with RSI/WRMD, held in 2000 in São Paulo. The event aimed to raise awareness and mobilize the society about this serious occupational health problem, which affects millions of workers in Brazil and around the world.

If you want to learn more about RSI/WRMD and the event, you can watch the video recording (in Portuguese) on the Fundacentro’s YouTube channel