Ergonomic assessment and low back pain among commercial fishermen Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Kucera, Kristen L.
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Epidemiology
  • Low back pain (LBP) is a significant problem for commercial fishermen. Little research has been done to investigate the ergonomic stress of occupational fishing tasks, and no previous study has explored the link between low back stress and LBP in fishing. This study quantified low back stresses during commercial crab and gillnet fishing tasks and determined the association between those stresses and LBP occurrences reported in a prospective cohort study of North Carolina commercial fishermen conducted April 1999 to October 2001. Two ergonomic methods measured the percent of time fishermen were exposed to low back stress in a sample of 29 commercial fishermen. Fishing task frequency was evaluated in a telephone questionnaire with cohort crab pot and gillnet fishermen (n=105). Multivariate generalized Poisson regression modeled the occurrence rate ratios (RR, 95% CI) of LBP that limited or interrupted work (severe LBP) by percent time exposed to high low back stress and self-reported task. The rate of severe LBP was 0.69 per 1000 person-days (95% CI: 0.47, 0.90). Age, years of experience and previous severe LBP were associated with severe LBP. Handling heavy loads during loading and unloading produced high compression (3400 to 5315 Newtons) and lifting index values (3.0 to 5.4), but contributed little to overall work iv time (0-14%). Unloading the boat with or without use of a lifting aid was associated with an increased rate of severe LBP. Sorting catch, due to the large portion of time in static, nonneutral trunk postures (83% task time, 27-53% total work time), was associated with an increased rate of LBP (1.80 95% CI: 0.78, 4.13). Overall, increased rates of LBP were associated with the percent of time fishermen were exposed to awkward postures, spine compression >3400 Newtons, and NIOSH lifting index >3.0. Our results demonstrate that neither fishing task frequency nor ergonomic measure alone consistently predict LBP. Age, history of LBP, and self-selection out of tasks were likely important contributors to the patterns of low back stress and outcomes we observed. Research should involve fishermen in future intervention studies to account for these behaviors and increase adoption and diffusion of beneficial interventions.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Loomis, Dana P.
  • Open access

This work has no parents.