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A Study of Heavy Industries in British Columbia:

Forestry, Wood & Wood Products, Construction, Warehousing, and Transportation

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injuries, but their causes and the best means of preventing them are not well understood.

The purpose of the Back Study was to investigate back injuries and risk factors for back injuries in five heavy industries in British Columbia. The ultimate goal is to develop strategies to prevent back injuries.

This website provides . . .

  • an introduction to the study background and goals;
  • links to useful information about backs and back injuries;
  • presentations and publications about the study results; and
  • contact information for the research team.

Update: November 2011

Catherine Trask completed her doctoral thesis based on this study, "Balancing Efficiencies and Tradeoffs in Epidemiological Field Studies: Evaluating EMG Exposure Assessment for Low Back Injury Risk Factors in Heavy Industry". She has just finished post-doctoral research in Sweden, and is now Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She has written many articles about the results of the study, listed on the Publications page of the website.

Study Summary

The field portion of the study was completed in February 2006. Measurements of back injury risk factors (manual materials handling, posture, whole body vibration) were made for 126 participants, some of them on two days, for a total of 223 person-days of measurements.

The breakdown by industry is:

  • 42 days in forestry
  • 42 days in wood and paper products
  • 42 days in construction
  • 54 days in transportation
  • 43 days in warehousing

In addition to the exposure measurements, we also have data on back injury claims and physician visits for over 100,000 employees in the heavy industries listed above. This data will be used to help us understand the prevalence and trajectories of back injuries in this group.

The data analyses for both sets of data are complete. We have submitted two final reports to the WorkSafeBC Research Secretariat, available via the links in the box above.

Personal results of the study have been sent participants who requested them. Study researchers have made presentations about study results to scientific audiences in Banff, Toronto, Boston, Costa Rica and elsewhere. Many of these are available on the Publications page of the website. We are preparing a leaflet with a summary of the overall results. It will be sent to the participating employees, employers and unions involved with the study.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

School of Population and Public Health
2206 East Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada

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