Monday, March 16, 2009

Gillette-Type Repetitive Motion Injuries in Minnesota

When people think of on-the-job injuries, they often think of sudden, unexpected accidents, such as falling off a ladder, being involved in a car accident, slipping and falling, or injuries due to lifting heavy objects. These types of work injuries are known as “specific injuries” under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. These types of injuries are caused by an ascertainable event, at a specific time.

But what about injuries that occur over a long period of time, that weren’t necessarily caused by a specific event, and didn’t occur at one specific time? Under Minnesota work comp law, these types of injuries are known as Gillette-type injuries. They are also commonly referred to as cumulative trauma injuries or repetitive motion injuries.

Repetitive motion injuries or cumulative trauma injuries are referred to as Gillette-type based on the name of the case where the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized the compensability of these types of injuries. In Gillette, the court stated:
It is well established by the authorities that when the inevitable effects of an underlying condition are hastened by an injury that is sudden and violent or the result of unusual strain or exertion, the injury and its disabling consequences are compensable. It should further be conceded, however, that injuries may arise out of and in the course of the employment which do not occur suddenly or violently. In the course of one’s ordinary duties injuries may occur daily which cause minimal damage, the cumulative effect of which in the course of time may be as injurious as a single traumatic occurrence which is completely disabling. We have been presented with no good reason why compensation should be paid in one instance and not in the other.
Gillette v. Harold, Inc., 101 N.W.2d 200, 206 (1960).

People in occupations where their job duties require repetitive motions tend to be at greater risk for Gillette-type work injuries; however, almost any type of work activity can cause a cumulative trauma or repetitive motion injury. Repetitive motion injuries are frequently seen in the following types of occupations:
  • Assemblers
  • Machine operators
  • Textile sewing machine operators
  • Secretaries
  • Cashiers
  • Packaging operators
  • Electronic assemblers
  • Data entry workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Welders
  • Butchers and meat cutters
  • Bookkeepers
  • Auditors
  • Accountants
  • Freight, stock and material handlers
  • Carpenters
  • Hairstylists
  • Mechanics
  • Dental hygienists
  • Construction laborers
There are many factors that affect the development of repetitive motion, cumulative trauma, or Gillette-type injuries:
  • Repetitive motion: when a task is repeated frequently it can cause strains and fatigue in muscles, joints and tendons.
  • Forceful exertion: tasks that require force place a higher load or stress on muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Awkward posture/position: poor posture while performing a task, especially a repetitive task, puts strain on joints and muscles.
  • Duration: tasks that require the use of the same muscles for long periods of time can cause fatigue in those muscles and make them susceptible to injury.
  • Compression: pressing body parts on hard or sharp surfaces causes a decrease in blood flow to the muscles, tendons and nerves in that area. This can cause symptoms of tingling, numbness and change in sensation, and lead to tissue damage in that area.
  • Vibration: activities involving vibration put stress on individual parts or the whole body.
  • Poor physical health: conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Raynaud's, arthritis, smoking, alcoholism, gout, hypertension, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stress and job dissatisfaction can increase the chance of developing a repetitive motion injury.
Common types of Gillette-type, repetitive motion, cumulative trauma injuries include:
Gillette-type injuries are very frequently contested by employers and their workers’ compensation insurance company. If you have sustained a repetitive motion, cumulative trauma, or Gillette-type injury at work, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

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