The impact of operating heavy equipment vehicles on lower back disorders
Literature reviews examining the relationship between heavy equipment vehicle operation and the development of lower back pain have generally been qualitative in nature and have not employed an evidence-based assessment procedure. This research determines the extent to which whole body vibration, shock and working postures are associated with lower back pain and neck problems among heavy equipment vehicle operators, while accounting for individual (i.e. age, gender, prior history of back or neck disorders) and occupational (i.e. material handling, climatic conditions, psychosocial factors) confounders. Published articles were obtained from a search of electronic databases and from bibliographies in the identified articles. A critical appraisal of these articles was conducted using an epidemiological appraisal instrument (Genaidy et al. 2007). The meta-analysis was conducted using statistical techniques employing fixed-effect and random-effect models. Eighteen articles reporting observational studies satisfied the inclusion criteria adopted for this research. The methodological qualities of the published studies ranged from marginal to average. The meta-relative risk was found to be 2.21, indicating that operators exposed to driving heavy equipment vehicles are at more than twice the risk of developing lower back pain in comparison to those not exposed to driving heavy equipment vehicles.
Therefore, it seems possible that there is a causal relationship between working as a heavy equipment vehicle operator and development of lower back disorders. Prospective cohort studies are urgently needed to confirm the outcomes of this evidence-based methodology (based in part on the meta-analysis) and the biological plausibility should be further explored. The reported findings point to a need for improved ergonomic design of heavy equipment vehicles to avoid lower back pain and neck problems.