Friday, July 27, 2007

Study Employer Advice and Devices Dont Prevent Worker Back Pain

Advice alone may not be enough to prevent lifting injuries ...

"A Finnish review has concluded that employer attempts to push training programs that offer lifting advice and material handling devices in an effort to alleviate worker back pain do not prevent the malady, which is said to be the top cause of workers' compensation claims.

Lead author Kari-Pekka Martimo, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, said attempts made by employers to teach workers specific lifting methods or to have employees use devices such as hoists for lifting hospital patients, were “not effective” in preventing back pain or reducing disability claims or sick leave.

The review, which appears in the latest issue of the Cochrane Library, is an examination of data from more than 18,000 employees in 11 studies.

“Safer” Lifting Techniques May Not Exist

According to Martimo, one explanation for the negative findings could be that “safer” lifting techniques do not really exist, so teaching particular tactics would be unlikely to help.

“Another possibility is that elevated risk for back pain might not be related to lifting or moving heavy objects themselves, but to other aspects of work,” he said. High stress, for example, might link jobs that require lifting to back pain, rather than the lifting itself.

Alternatively, it could be that the way lifting and ergonomic techniques are taught is the problem – and that workers do not actually adopt better habits. However, the studies looked at many different training methods and did not find any to have a particular advantage.

"I don’t think it’s lack of adequate teaching methods,” Martimo said. One complication of assuming there is a “correct” lifting technique is that “when an employee has back pain, there’s a tendency to blame the victim because he didn’t [use the techniques or devices] correctly."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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