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Introduction

Why study back injuries?

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injuries in Bristish Columbia. In 2005, there were 14,380 accepted compensation claims for back strain, representing ~23% of all claims, ~23% of workdays lost, and ~20% of claims costs.

More than a quarter of all back strain claims are from employees in the following industries:

  • forestry
  • wood and paper products
  • construction
  • transportation
  • warehousing

This study is the first phase of a research program to study the causes of back injuries in these industries and to test ways to reduce them. We started the study because of concern about back injuries from unions and management in the forest industry. The study has since been extended to include the additional heavy industries.

What are the components of the study?

The Back Study team used a combination of workplace measurements carried out in participants’ workplaces, and computer analyses of health data from the Ministry of Health and WorkSafeBC.

Computer analyses

Over 100,000 employees in the 5 heavy industries were identified from the BC Linked Health Database. We examined this group to tabulate the numbers who had back injuries requiring a doctor visit, back injuries requiring a hospital stay, and back injuries resulting in an accepted workers’ compensation claim. We looked at their patterns of health care use and compensated work days lost for back injuries over the 10-year period from 1991 to 2001. We also calculated the rates of back injuries in the 5 industries.

Workplace measurements

The Back Study team has carried out measurements in workplaces in the Greater Vancouver and Sunshine Coast areas. We visited the workplaces of 50 employees who had accepted worker’s compensation claims for back injury and a sample of their coworkers. The team measured awkward postures, lifting, pushing and pulling heavy weights, and vibrations that shake the whole body, since all of these are considered possible causes of back injuries.

What information will we get from this research?

This study provides information on exposures to whole body vibration, trunk posture and materials handling in the 5 industries, and demonstrates the best ways to measure these exposures. It also indicates the rate of back injuries in these industries.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

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

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