Toolbox Talk: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

The CPWR Toolbox Talk on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome addresses the risks associated with repetitive motion. The resource includes a ‘real-life’ case example, steps to prevent a related injury or illness, and questions for discussion. It includes an image (page 2) that illustrates the hazard, which can be posted in a central location as a reminder of steps to work safely.   Click on the following links to access the English version and the Spanish version. (English) (Español)

CPWR Toolbox Talk logoCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition that results when an important nerve is regularly disturbed. CTS starts slowly with pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist. Eventually the pain moves up the arm to other parts. CTS syndrome is viewed as one type of repetitive motion injury. It frequently occurs in the hand and wrist area.

Here is an Example

Greta, a roofer, first noticed symptoms of CTS when her fingers would tingle and she had problems holding her woodworking tools. Finally Greta went to her primary care physician, who performed some tests to confirm that Greta has carpal tunnel syndrome. Since her diagnosis, her symptoms have decreased though they are not completely gone. Unfortunately, she is not able to work as a full-time roofer, which forced her to look for other jobs.

  1. Have you ever experienced any pain or discomfort similar to Greta’s?
  2. Did you go to the doctor?
  3. Do you feel comfortable expressing job-related concerns?

Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Recognize that tasks like electrical work and inserting caulking in windows require repetitive bending and flexing of the fingers and wrists that can lead to CTS.
  • Look at other tools for tying rebar wire to avoid CTS caused by using pliers.
  • Distribute the grip across the muscle from the base of the thumb to the pinkie finger rather than just the center of the palm, when using hand tools like screwdrivers or paint brushes.
  • Wear gloves to lessen the shock when using vibrating tools such as chippers and hammers.
  • Rest your hands periodically.
  • Minimize repetition of any movement and vary the position of the arm when performing an activity.
  • Keep your wrists in a neutral position rather than bent forward or backward to decrease pressure on the nerve.

What Are We Going to Do Today?

What will we do here at the worksite today to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?







OSHA STANDARD: General Duty Clause Section (5)(a)(1) of the OSHA Act

Graphic of a worker wearing gloves and using a jackhammer.

  • Wear gloves to lessen the shock when using vibrating tools
  • Rest your hands periodically
  • Keep your wrists in a neutral position