BMC musculoskeletal disorders 2018 02 0919(1) 44 doi 10.1186/s12891-018-1956-3
No previous research has been performed into neck pain among forklift operators. This is a common complaint among these workers, who number around 150,000 in Sweden and six million in Europe. The aim of the study was to examine long-term exposure to unnatural neck positions among forklift operators as a risk factor for neck pain.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted of all eligible employees at a high-level warehouse. Forklift operators and office workers answered an 18-page questionnaire comprising questions about joint pain, work tasks, work postures and year of start for all items. By using person years in the exposed and less-exposed groups before start of neck pain we were able to calculate Incident Rate ratios for various exposures.
Forty nine percent of the forklift operators reported having experienced neck pain compared to 30 % of office workers. Being a forklift operator was associated with an increased risk of neck pain (OR = 5.1, 95% CI 1.4-18.2). Holding the head in an unnatural position resulted in significantly increased risks for neck pain, irrespective of type of position. The risks for neck pain remained after taking other ergonomic exposures and psychosocial aspects into consideration.
This is the first published study showing that forklift operators have an increased risk of neck pain. The results are therefore of significance for improving work schedules, the adjustment of work tasks for these workers and the design of the vehicles.