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Prevalence of physical workloads in the German workforce and its associations to musculoskeletal disorders

Specific analysis of the BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey 2018

Project number: F 2456 Institution: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) Status: Completed Project

Description:

Symptoms in the musculoskeletal system are reported very frequently in the current workforce. Many employees are exposed to physical workloads, even in the current world of work. Therefore, representative and updated information are needed for policy advice on the frequency of job related exposure to physical workload and related symptoms taking into account the changes in working conditions in Germany.

One aim of the project was to use the data from the BiBB/BAuA employment survey 2018 to present the distribution of self-reported data on the frequency of stress from various types of physical workload, stratified according to occupational groups. The types of workload analyzed were lifting and carrying loads, working in unfavorable postures, repetitive work, standing and uninterrupted sitting. The analyses were based on data of the current cross-sectional and representative BiBB/BAuA employment survey 2018. In addition, the relative frequency of symptoms in different regions of the musculoskeletal system was analysed in relation to the self-rated intensity of physical workload considering relevant confounders. Employees between the ages of 15 and 67 who worked more than 35 hours per week were included in the analyses. The relationship between the self-reported frequency of physical workload and the occurrence of musculoskeletal symptoms was estimated based on regression models. Risk ratios are reported as estimates. For example, the analysis for the self-reported frequency of lifting and carrying loads included 14,249 subjects (61.5% men, 38.5% women). Of these, 52.9% reported to handle heavy loads frequently. Subjects who “frequently” performed manual handling of heavy loads had a 1.4 times higher risk to suffer from low back pain in the last 12 months.

The evaluation of the BIBB/BAuA employment survey 2018 underlines that exposure to physical workloads is still frequent in many occupational groups. The established association to musculoskeletal symptoms could be proven. Preventive measures (e.g. risk assessment and occupational health measures) remain of crucial importance to reduce physical workload.

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