Current Research in Ergonomics

Many people write to Ergoweb and ask us, "Is there any research on back pain and the workplace?". The answer is a resounding YES! Every month researchers from around the world publish new findings on the correlations, or in some cases the lack thereof, between back pain/injury and workplace risk factors.

Two such research projects were published in the November, 2001, issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Sampling over 8,200 workers a Canadian study tries to relate back problems and physical as well as psychosocial issues in the workplace. The study found that high physical exertion was an independent predictor of back problems in both sexes. For both men and women, low social support at work and high job insecurity were independent predictors of restricted activity due to musculoskeletal disorders. Conversely, chronic back problems contributed to explanation of high job strain among women and high physical exertion among men. Restricted activity due to musculoskeletal disorders contributed to explanation of high job insecurity in both sexes.

Another study, completed by researchers in Germany, looked at specific medical conditions of the low back, and their relationship to repeated occupational exposure to lifting or carrying and to working postures with extreme forward bending.

The results of the study suggest that cumulative occupational exposure to lifting or carrying and extreme forward bending, and the lumbar forces associated with these activities, increases the risk for developing symptomatic osteochondrosis or spondylosis (a general term for degenerative changes in the spine) of the lumbar spine.

A third study in this issue changes the focus to shiftwork. In this study relating shiftwork to possible metabolic changes, Swedish researchers found that shiftworkers, as opposed to day workers, had a higher incidence of obesity, high triglycerides, and low concentrations of HDL cholesterol.

For more information about these studies see Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

At Ergoweb, we strive to provide our members with the most up to date information about ergonomics. As part of this we like to focus on current research and application throughout the broad field of ergonomics. If you or your company are in the process of, or have completed research related to ergonomics let us know by emailing [email protected].