Baggage handler seniority and musculoskeletal symptoms: is heavy lifting in awkward positions associated with the risk of pain?

Stine Hvid Bern, Charlotte Brauer, Karina Lauenborg Møller, Henrik Koblauch, Lau Caspar Thygesen, Erik Bruun Simonsen, Tine Alkjær, Jens Peter Bonde, Sigurd Mikkelsen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Objectives: Heavy lifting is associated with musculoskeletal disorders but it is unclear whether it is related to acute reversible effects or to chronic effects from cumulated exposure. The aim of this study was to examine whether musculoskeletal symptoms in Danish airport baggage handlers were associated with their seniority as baggage handler, indicating chronic effects from cumulated workload. Methods: We established a group of baggage handlers employed at Copenhagen Airport during the period 1983-2012 (n=3092) and a reference group of men in other unskilled occupations with less heavy work (n=2478). Data regarding work history, lifestyle and musculoskeletal symptoms were collected using a self-administered questionnaire (response rate 70.1% among baggage handlers and 68.8% among the reference group). Results: The ORs of self-reported musculoskeletal symptoms during the last 12 months in the neck/upper back, lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips and knees were significantly higher in baggage handlers than in the reference group. These differences were explained by significant linear effects of baggage handler seniority for six anatomical regions. Adjustment for age, body mass index, smoking and leisure-time physical activity did not change these results. The findings were stable over age strata and among present and former baggage handlers. Conclusions: The risk of musculoskeletal symptoms in six anatomical regions increased with increasing seniority as a baggage handler. This is consistent with the assumption that cumulated heavy lifting may cause chronic or long-lasting musculoskeletal symptoms. However, we cannot exclude that other factors related to baggage handler seniority may explain some of the associations.

TidsskriftBMJ Open
Udgave nummer11
Sider (fra-til)e004055
StatusUdgivet - 2013


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