Back disorder and ergonomic survey among north american railroad engineers

Eckardt Johanning, Paul Landsbergis, Siegfried Fischer, Raymond Luhrman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Railroad engineers are exposed to whole-body vibration and sedentary postural stress while operating locomotives. A self-administered 200-item health survey was distributed nationwide to a randomly selected group of active railroad engineers (n = 2,546) and a comparison group (civil engineers; n = 798). The response rate was 47% for railroad engineers (n = 1,195) and 41% for controls (n = 323). Back pain lasting more than 1 day per week within the past year was reported by 75% of railroad engineers, whereas it was reported by 41% of the controls [crude odds ratio (OR) = 4.32; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.31 to 5.64]. In a logistic regression model, by adjusting for age, gender, race, smoking, and nonjob-related vibration exposure, the adjusted OR was 4.24 (95% CI = 3.20 to 5.62). The adjusted OR for sciatic pain (a back condition with neurological complications) was 2.17 (95% CI = 1.33 to 3.56). The rates of neck and shoulder problems were also higher among railroad engineers. In conclusion, the survey suggests that railroad engineers have higher rates of back disorders and other health problems than the controls, who have lower levels of exposure to shock and vibration and fewer ergonomic complaints. Better vibration control and ergonomics are probably important factors in preventing back disorders among railroad engineers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1899
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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