In a case that serves as a classic illustration of how a claimant’s required work activities caused the onset and aggravation of his workplace injuries, specifically his bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, both the arbitrator and the Commission awarded the claimant benefits and payment of medical expenses. See Press operator establishes hand-intensive work duties caused disability. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 8, June 25, 2021, page 4. The case discussed in the article, Harvey v. Northern Illinois University Foundation, 29 ILWCLB 81 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved a claimant that was employed as a printing press operator. The claimant spent half of each working day loading and feeding paper into a printing press for his employer. An average daily paper load would be comprised of 5,000 to 8,000 individual sheets of paper, of which the claimant would grab around 20 lbs. at a time, to feed into the printing machine. The claimant would then repeat the process by turning the papers over and feeding them into the machine again, so the other side of the pages would be printed on as well. The claimant would also sometimes have to use a cutter to trim down the paper sheets, so they would fit into the printer, which was a very labor-intensive process as well. The claimant subsequently noticed recurring issues with his hands, including difficulty gripping things, and so he was medically treated and diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and thumb CMC joint arthritis. At hearing, the arbitrator held that the claimant sustained a work-related accident that arose out of his employment, noting specifically the claimant’s repetitive and physically demanding job duties, including the resulting strain upon the claimant’s wrists and hands. The arbitrator was also impressed and persuaded by the medical opinions offered by both of the claimant’s two treating physicians, each of whom conclusively linked the claimant’s carpal tunnel issues to the nature of his work activities, while the formulaic and staid opinions of the employer’s retained (IME) physician were found to be unsupported by the case facts and witness testimony. The arbitrator awarded the claimant temporary total disability and permanent disability for 12.5% loss of use of the claimant’s right hand, and 7.5% loss of use of his left hand, as well as payment of the claimant’s medical expenses. The employer appealed, but upon review, the Commission affirmed (and adopted) the arbitrator’s decision.
This case is instructive, in that it amply demonstrates how an employee-claimant’s work activities and duties can cause both the onset and aggravation of compensable work-related injuries and conditions.
Press operator establishes hand-intensive work duties caused disability. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 8, June 25, 2021, page 4.