Musculoskeletal disorders and whole-body vibration exposure among professional drivers of all-terrain vehicles

Abstract: Musculoskeletal disorders are common among professional driver groups. Ergonomic risk factors at work are often suggested as causative, aggravating or preserving. The general aim with this thesis is to investigate the association between musculoskeletal disorders and physical exposure with special with special focus on whole-body vibration (WBV), among professional drivers of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Drivers of ATVs are expsosed to high magnitudes of WBV and shock. This thesis included drivers of forest machines, snowgroomers and snowmobiles. A cross-sectional study revealed that ATV drivers had an increased risk of musculoskeletal symptoms in the neck-shoulder and thoracic regions, even after adjusting for age, smoking habits and psychosocial stress. Prevalence rates were in the range of 1.5-2.9 (CI:1.2-5.2) compared to an age-matched group from the general population. No group of ATV drivers had a significantly increased risk of low back pain. Trend analysis showed no association between symptoms and exposure time. A clinical investigation of a subgroup found that it was for ATV drivers with neck pain to have assymetrical and focal neuropathies, pure or in mix with a nociceptive disorder, in the neck and upper extremities (47-79%), which was in contrast to referents with neck pain who had more nociceptive disorders (27% prevalence of neuropathy). Two studies measured characteristics of seated WBV exposure in forest machines (forwarders), snowgroomers and snowmobiles. The magnitudes of WBV in ATVs, measured and analyzed according to ISO 2631-1, were between 0.5-3.5 m/s2 (frequency weighted vector sum), which was considered high compared to limits suggested by the international standard ISO 2631-1 and the physical agent directive from the Euoropean Union (0.5 m/s2, rms). Drivers of ATVs were exposed to horizontally directed WBV and shocks. Non-neutral neck postures are ergonomic risk factors that occured infrequently and with short duration. The magnitude of seated WBV in forwarder vehicles varied substantiálly depending on model, terrain condition and driver. This may result in different conclusions regarding health risk assessments. The main conclusion from this thesis is that musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders in the neck and upper extremities, among drivers of ATVs, may be a result of long-time exposure to shock-type and horisozontally oriented seated WBV.