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Smartphones could lower workplace repetitive injuries

Many Oklahoma residents use their smartphones to stay in touch with their friends, family members and acquaintances and browse the internet, but these devices can also be used to improve safety in the workplace. Modern smartphones contain high resolution cameras and powerful processors that can analyze video footage quickly and easily, and these features are being used to develop an application that could reduce the number of repetitive motion injuries suffered by American workers.

Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome lead to thousands of missed workdays each year in the United States and cost American employers millions of dollars in lost productivity and increased workers' compensation premiums. However, the process for identifying activities that could cause repetitive motion injuries is far from exact and involves the subjective process of grading the risks faced by workers on a scale of one to 10. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have looked into this problem, and they feel that modern technology could do a far better job.

The researchers are developing a smartphone application that records workers' hand movements and identifies activities that involve even minor repetitive motions. The team believes that this nonintrusive approach may one day prevent thousands of workplace injuries each year. Cloud computing could then allow employers in different parts of the country to cooperate with each other by sharing their findings and suggesting remedies.

Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome are often difficult to treat effectively and may lead to long absences, and employers concerned about rising costs sometimes claim that repetitive motion injuries are not work-related. When employers attempt to deny claims on the basis that these conditions are preexisting or were caused by activities performed outside of work, attorneys with experience in this area may call upon experts or present medical evidence when advocating on behalf of injured workers during appeals hearings.

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