Whole-body vibration and ergonomic study of US railroad locomotives

Eckardt Johanning, Paul Landsbergis, Siegfried Fischer, Eberhard Christ, Benno Göres, Raymond Luhrman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


US locomotive operators have exposure to multi-axis whole-body vibration (WBV) and shocks while seated. This study assessed operator-related and ergonomic seating design factors that may have confounding or mitigating influence on WBV exposure and its effects. Vibration exposure was measured according to international guidelines (ISO 2631-1; 1997); ergonomic work place factors and vibration effects were studied with a cross-sectional survey instrument distributed to a randomly selected group of railroad engineers (n = 2546) and a control group; and during vehicle inspections. The survey response rate was 47% for the RR engineers (n = 1195) and 41% for the controls (n = 323). Results of the mean basic vibration measurements were for the x, y, z-direction and vector sum 0.14, 0.22, 0.28 and 0.49 m/s2 respectively; almost all crest factors (CF), MTVV and VDV values were above the critical ratios given in ISO 2631-1. The prevalence of serious neck and lower back disorders among locomotive engineers was found to be nearly double that of the sedentary control group without such exposure. Railroad engineers rated their seats mostly unacceptable regarding different adjustment and comfort aspects (3.02-3.51; scale 1=excellent to 4=unacceptable), while the control group rated their chairs more favorably (1.96-3.44). Existing cab and seat design in locomotives can result in prolonged forced awkward spinal posture of the operator combined with WBV exposure. In a logistic regression analysis, time at work being bothered by vibration (h/day) was significantly associated with an increased risk of low back pain, shoulder and neck pain, and sciatic pain among railroad engineers. Customized vibration attenuation seats and improved cab design of the locomotive controls should be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-600
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sound and Vibration
Issue number3
StatePublished - 12 Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


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