Understanding Gillette Injuries in Minnesota Workers Compensation Cases
In many cases, work injuries are easy to discover such as slip and falls, lifting accidents, which occur suddenly or violently. But what about injuries that occur over time -days, weeks, months or years. 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. Injuries that occur as a result of repetitive trauma or cumulative trauma are referred to as Gillette injuries under Minnesota workers compensation.
What is the definition of a Gillette Injury?
Gillette injuries are named after the holding in Gillette v. Harold, Inc., 21 W.C.D. 105, 101 N.W.2d 200 (1960). In that case, the Minn. Supreme court held that a Gillette injury culminates when the cumulative effect of repetitive trauma is sufficiently serious to disable the employee from further work.
An injured worker must be able to prove a causal connection between his or her ordinary work and the ensuing disability. The employee’s testimony alone is not enough to establish the connection. The finding depends mainly on medical evidence. Medical evidence is the medical reports from the injured workers’ doctors establishing the connection between the work activities and the injury. The doctor must have an adequate foundation of the employee’s work duties to determine those duties caused the employee’s symptoms. The injured worker should provide a detailed description of the job duties to the physician.
What Date is Used for a Gillette Injury?
Determining the date of Gillette injury requires identifying an “ascertainable event”—an event that reasonably signals the presence of a work injury. An “ascertainable event” in workers compensation case law has included such occurrences as:
- the date a doctor connects the employee’s condition to work activity;
- the date the employee begins medical treatment for the condition;
- the date the employee is removed from regular duties due to the condition;
- the date a doctor recommends surgery for the condition;
- the date the employee self-restricts his activities due to the condition;
- the date the employee informs his employer he can no longer work due to the condition.
Again, proof of such a Gillette injury is dependent primarily on medical evidence. The date of disability for a Gillette-type injury is to look at all the evidence in the case.
What Causes a Gillette Injury or Repetitive Trauma Injury?
Gillette injuries can be caused by almost anything so long as there is medical evidence support for the activities to be a causative factor to the injuries. Various occupational ergonomic factors are involved in repetitive or Gillette type injuries. The factors can include:
- High Task Repetition and Inappropriate Work / Rest Cycles: A job is classified as highly repetitive if the cycle time is less than 30 seconds, or if a task or motion is performed more than 50% of the time it takes to complete the work cycle. Work and rest cycles are the intervals of time measured during one complete task revolution or cycle. The more repetitive the task or cycle, the less recovery time there is for the muscles and tendons. Inappropriate rest/work cycles are work cycles that do not allow time for sufficient recovery and microtrauma can accumulate, leading to cumulative trauma disorders.
- Forces and Forceful Exertions: Both static and dynamic loading increases muscle contraction strength and duration, thus reducing circulation to the muscle fibers and increasing recovery time requirements. Static loading is a greater risk factor than dynamic loading, since static loading results in increased muscle fiber recruitment and fatigue and decreased blood perfusion. Forceful exertions produce increased muscle effort in response to high task load, leading to more rapid muscle fatigue and overuse which can lead to upper extremity injuries.
- Positions of the Wrist and Arm and Awkward Postures: Repetitive wrist flexion and extension increase intra-carpal tunnel pressures in the wrist. In addition, awkward postures overload muscles and tendons and load joints in an asymmetrical manner, imposing a static load to the musculature thus reducing nerve and muscle blood flow. Activities that use repetitive finger motions with the wrist in an extended position in constrained postures, such as playing a musical instrument, typing or the use of pinch grips also increases intra-carpal tunnel pressures and thus reduces nerve and muscle blood flow which may lead to upper extremity injuries.
- Mechanical Stress Concentrations / Contact Trauma: Weight-bearing with the wrist in an extended position such as gymnastic sports or bicycle riding. Direct pressure contacting the base of the palm or the palmar surface of the fingers such as in the frequent or continuous use of tools with hard or sharp edges, or short handles can cause direct compression against peripheral nerve fibers, leading to upper extremity symptoms.
- Vibration: Vibrating hand-held tools can cause toxic vibration reflex and constrict blood vessels, which may damage nerve fibers in the upper extremity.
- Exposure to Cold: Working in cold environments and/or handling cold tools affect the circulation to the upper extremity.
- Gloves: Use of gloves reduces tactility, increasing the amount of force required to hold or manipulate a given object. This risk increases with poor fitting of the gloves and with glove thickness.
- Lead: Constant contact or exposure to lead has been shown to impair maximal motor and sensory nerve conduction velocities of the medial nerve which may cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome of the wrist.
- Work Stress: Workload, work pressures and job satisfaction may alter the individual’s response to early signs of fatigue and discomfort.
Upper Extremity Gillette Injuries
The risk of developing upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders and injuries increases with the number of risk factors present. Jobs that combine high force and high repetition pose the greatest risk including:
- Repetitive movements in a factory or production environment;
- Repetitive hand movements, such as using a mouse, typing, or clicking;
- Frequent lifting, especially of large or awkward loads;
- Regular use of vibrating tools or instruments;
- Repetitive twisting, bending, or stretching;
- Hyperextension of the arms over an extended period of time;
- Awkward workstations or tools;
- Regular grasping, gripping, or straining
Initially, the pain or discomfort from these injuries may go away with rest. Over time, however, the pain will grow as the injury worsens and becomes more debilitating. The pain can limit the range of motion and the ability to lift and maneuver. Examples of repetitive injuries include:
- Tendonitis and tenosynovitis: the inflammation of the tendon or the sheath surrounding the tendon;
- Epicondylitis: the inflammation of the area where the tendon attaches to the bone;
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: a pinched nerve in the wrist;
- Cubital tunnel syndrome: a pinched or stretched nerve on the inside of the elbow;
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: the compression of blood vessels in the chest and shoulders;
- Trigger finger: an inflammation of the tissues in the finger from overuse;
- A number of other nerve disorders.
What should I do after a Gillette Injury? – Contact a Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you suffered a repetitive or Gillette injury and would like to talk to a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer, contact Jerry Sisk at The Law Office of Thomas Mottaz. Call us Now at 855-354-2667 or fill out the contact form and our office will contact you immediately. We are here to help to make sure your rights are protected.
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