NIOSH, Ohio BWC Studying Devices' Impact on Back Pain

The study will involve 960 delivery workers at 72 wholesale/retail trade establishments to see whether using stair-climbing, powered hand trucks and powered truck lift gates reduces their back pain and upper extremity pain.

NIOSH and the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation are collaborating on a study to see whether using stair-climbing, powered hand trucks and powered truck lift gates reduces delivery workers’ back pain and upper extremity pain. NIOSH explained the proposed study in a July 25 Federal Register notice.

This L.P. International Inc. photo show its PowerMate stair climbing hand truck in action.Twenty-four sites will be recruited from each of three total employee categories (fewer than 20 employees, 20-99 employees, and 100+ employees) for a total of 72 sites with 3,240 employees. Participating workers will be volunteers who deliver large items (such as appliances, furniture, vending machines, furnaces, or water heaters); these tasks are expected to be affected by the powered hand truck and truck lift gate interventions, according to the notice, which said the 960 chosen employees will be paired according to previous workers’ compensation loss history and establishment size. An establishment from each pair, will be randomly chosen to receive one or the other intervention in phase one, and the other will serve as a matched control until it receives the same intervention 12 months later.

The main outcomes for the study are self-reported low back pain and upper extremity pain collected using surveys every three months during a two-year period. Participating individuals will be asked to complete an annual health assessment survey at baseline and then annually for two years, with 20 percent of survey participants also asked to participate in a clinical assessment of low back function at baseline and then annually for two years.

NIOSH said it expects to complete data collection in 2014. Once the study is completed, results will be published at NIOSH’s website and in peer-reviewed publications.

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