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Manual handling of heavy loads and low back pain among different occupational groups: results of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA employment survey

Background: In Germany and other European countries, many occupations still involve manual handling of loads (MHL), an activity that puts the musculoskeletal system at risk of low back pain (LBP). This study aims to describe the current prevalence of MHL in different occupational groups stratified by gender in Germany, the association between MHL and LBP and the adjusted prevalence of LBP in different respond-categories of MHL.

Methods: Data was collected in telephone interviews conducted as part of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey, which covers work-related topics like working conditions, education, health status and job satisfaction. The analyses were limited to full-time workers (> 35 h/week) aged between 15 and 67. The frequency of MHL was analysed descriptively. BLOSSFELD classification was used to group the participants in occupational categories. The analysis of the association between MHL and the prevalence of LBP over the last 12 months was based on robust log-linear Poisson regression that results in prevalence ratios (PR). The main regression model was adjusted for gender, age, working hours, and working conditions. Adjusted estimates for the prevalence of LBP were calculated based on regression analysis.

Results: The sample consists of n = 14,331 participants (men: n = 8828, 61.6%; women: n = 5503, 38.4%; median age 49 years). Of these, 52.8% say they were exposed to MHL at work. MHL is most common in agricultural occupations, skilled and unskilled occupations. In the regression model, participants who said they were "often" exposed to MHL reported more frequently LBP than those participants who said they were "never" exposed to MHL. The PR as estimate for the association is 1.41 (95%CI [1.32; 1.49]). Postestimation of the prevalence of LBP began with 47.3% (95%CI [43.8%; 51.1%]) for participants who said they were "never" exposed to MHL and rose to 66.5% (95%CI [62.4%; 71.0%]) for participants who indicated they were "often" exposed to MHL.

Conclusions: The 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey emphasizes that MHL is still common in the German workforce and shows a significant association to LBP. Prevention policies for avoiding MHL remain vital.

The complete article is published in the Journal "BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders" (2021).

Bibliographic information

M. Sauter, J. Barthelme, C. Müller, F. Liebers:
Manual handling of heavy loads and low back pain among different occupational groups: results of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA employment survey. 
in: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Volume 22 2021. pages 1-14, Project number: F 2456, PDF file, DOI: 10.1186/s12891-021-04819-z

download file "Manual handling of heavy loads and low back pain among different occupational groups: results of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA employment survey" (PDF, 2 MB, Not barrier-free file)

Research Project

Project numberF 2456 StatusCompleted Project Prevalence of physical workloads in the German workforce and its associations to musculoskeletal disorders

Find out more : Prevalence of physical workloads in the German workforce and its associations to musculoskeletal disorders …

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