Five years ago: $5.3m RSI case could spur ergo keyboard market

A landmark $5.3 million US award for RSI injuries could boost makers of ergonomic input devices

The huge sum, believed to be the largest of its type, was paid to victims of arm, wrist and hand injuries caused by Digital PC keyboards. Now, makers of ergonomic equipment could cash in as PC makers and employers rush to ensure they are not liable to lawsuits.

A UK maker of specialist ergonomic keyboards said the result could cause a sea change in attitudes to RSI, and claims the fuss has already led to receiving a burst in the number of calls received. "I have expected this for 20 years," said Stephen Hobday, managing director of East Molsey, Surrey-based PCD Maltron. "We have supplied information to all the companies and have been sad that they haven't taken us seriously."

Hobday claims that his company's products have been responsible for putting about 500 RSI sufferers back to work but says PC makers have been put off by the unusual designs and expense of ergonomic keyboards. Vendors like Microsoft, Cherry and Alps all have curved designs that follow the contours of the human hand in repose but only go some of the way to fixing the problem, he said.

However, the good news for self-taught hunt-and-peck typists is that RSI injuries are much more likely to happen to touch typists. "It's much more likely to happen in the typing pool ... much more likely to happen to a sub-editor rather than a self-taught typist like a reporter," Hobday said.

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