Occupational and Environmental Life Sciences - Working conditions, ergonmomics, whole-body vibration

Occupational and Environmental Life Sciences

Working conditions, ergonomic, and whole-body vibration


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Prolonged and excessive whole body vibration (WBV) is considered a general physical stressor and has been associated with a variety of occupational health disorders, especially of the musculoskeletal system, the spine and lower back.

Two forms of vibration exposure relevant for acute or chronic occupational health problems are known: Whole-body vibration and segmental or hand-transmitted vibration. Long-term whole-body vibration stemming from engines and vehicles has been identified as an important mechanical stressor causing early and accelerated degenerative spine diseases,  leading to back pain and prolapsed discs ([i],[ii],[iii],[iv]).

Poor body posture, inadequate seat support and muscle fatigue have been described as co-factors in the pathogenesis of musculoskeletal disorders of the spine in operators/drivers. High prevalence of back pain, early degenerative changes of the spine and herniated lumbar disc problems have been consistently reported among vibration exposed occupational groups: tractor drivers, truckers and interstate bus drivers, crane or earth moving equipment operators and helicopter pilots. Also among operators of rail-vehicles (i.e., railroad and subway trains) with relatively low vertical but higher lateral vibration , and frequent high shocks (irregular vibration) the prevalence of back disorders appears to be high ([v],[vi]).


[i]Dupuis H, Zerlett G. The Effects of Whole-Body Vibration. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1986.

[ii]Seidel H, Heide R. Long-term effects of whole-body vibration: a critical survey of the literature. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 1986; 58:1-26.

[iii]Hulshof C, v Zanten B. Whole-body vibration and low-back pain. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 1987;59:205-20.

[iv]Griffin MJ. Handbook of Human Vibration. London: Academic Press, 1990.

[v]Johanning E, Wilder D, Landrigan P, Pope M. Whole-Body Vibration Exposure in Subway Cars and Review of Adverse Health Effects. JOM 1991; 33(5):605-12.

[vi]Johanning E. Survey Results of Back Disorders and Health Problems in Subway Train Operators exposed to Whole-Body Vibration. Scand J Work, Environ and Health 199; 17(6):414-9.

Johanning, E. et al. "Whole-body vibration exposure study in U.S. railroad locomotives--an ergonomic risk assessment." AIHA.J.(Fairfax., Va.) 63.4 (2002): 439-46.



2004 - 2005, Occupational and Environmental Life Sciences, Albany, New York, USA. Last updated: 06/23/2005