Children should have mandatory typing classes at school to prevent a generation of RSI (repetitive strain injury) sufferers, says a leading workers union. The Trades Union Congress ( TUC ) has blamed typing as a leading cause of RSI and wants the government to intervene.

It believes that by tackling the problem before it starts - teaching children good typing skills - the UK will be spared an RSI "epidemic."

Marking National RSI Day, yesterday, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite the reality that most people are more likely these days to use a computer to write a document than a pen, school children are not routinely being taught how to type."

But the TUC believes businesses could also do more right now, berating them for not providing adequate keyboard training, or support with enough ergonomic office equipment. This, along with bad habits from people the TUC terms 'two-finger typists', puts considerable strain on employee's hands which can lead to RSI.

According to the TUC, nearly 375,000 people suffered from a musculoskeletal disorder affecting the upper limbs or neck in 2004/05; a condition that was caused or made worse by their current or past work.

Preventing RSI

The Union has issued a list of helpful tips to help reduce the occurrence of RSI.

  • You should have enough space to work.
  • The top of your screen should be at eye level and a comfortable distance away from you.
  • Your forearms should be horizontal.
  • Make sure your employer provides you with an adjustable chair. Ideally you should find it comfortable to sit upright and have the seat tilted slightly forward.
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor, or on a foot rest if you need one.
  • Wrist or palm rests should be provided and there should be space in front of the keyboard to support the hands during pauses in typing.
  • If you do a lot of typing then make sure your employer offers you touch-typing training. Two finger typists are far more likely to get pains in the hands, wrist and forearms. An alternative is asking for a voice recognition software package.
  • Don't use the mouse too much. Always use a mouse mat. Consider using the controls on your computer to slow mouse movements down. Use keyboard shortcuts once you are used to them.
  • Take regular short breaks, both from typing and from sitting in the same position.
  • You are legally entitled to have your computer equipment and workstation assessed to make sure that it meets your own individual needs. You are also entitled to regular breaks or changes of activities.

For more information on RSI, visit the TUC's RSI webpage or the RSI Awareness Website .