Risk for Ergonomic Injury

The research indicates that interpreting causes more physical stress to the extremities than high-risk tasks conducted in industrial settings, including assembly line work. It also found a direct link between an increase in the mental and cognitive stress of the interpreter and an increase in the risk of musculoskeletal injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

The research is one of the first to catalogue the effect of signing on interpreters and show a correlation between mental and cognitive stress and increased ergonomic risk. “The impact of repetitive stress in industrial and office settings has been well documented, but there is less data on the risk of ergonomic injury to sign language interpreters,” says Matthew Marshall, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at RIT. Marshall notes that the impact of injury on interpreters and its effect on retention is a major issue in the deaf community because any reduction in the interpreter population would have an adverse effect on the full societal participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

In developing its findings, the RIT team studied a group of interpreters and measured the physical impact of signing over a fixed time period, utilizing metrics developed for industrial settings. The team found that wrist velocity and acceleration during interpreting, factors used to measure physical impact, were more acute than the high risk limits for industrial workers. In addition, an increase in mental and cognitive stress led to a 15-19 percent increase in wrist velocity and acceleration during interpreting.

Marshall will next look to enhance this data through additional studies placing interpreters in a wide variety of settings. “The ultimate goal is to enhance knowledge of the impacts of interpreting and help make the profession more conducive for workers,” notes Marshall.

MEDICA.de; Source: Rochester Institute of Technology