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	figure showing skeleton and musculature

Activities: NIOSH Funded Research Grants

NIOSH sponsors research and training through its extramural programs, which complement the Institute's intramural programs. The following list includes select MSD-related extramural projects that were funded in 2015. More information is available from the NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs .

Projects Concluding in 2015

Safe Patient Handling Legislation and MSDs in California Healthcare Workers

The purpose of this study is to identify the magnitude, incidence, characteristics, and cost of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and patient handling injuries among California healthcare workers as the baseline data to evaluate the impact of California's safe patient handling legislation. This study will analyze workers' compensation data in California for five years (2007-2011) and will fill current data gaps in California. This baseline study and follow-up research will provide important information on the effectiveness of the safe patient handling law and will inform best practices for reducing work-related MSDs among healthcare workers.

University of California – San Francisco
Project period: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2015

Understanding Vibration Injury

The dose response characteristics of vibration (frequency, acceleration, amplitude and duration) are not sufficiently understood to predict tissue injury from non-impact and impact vibration. The lack of understanding hinders the ability to establish recommendations for tolerable (safe) vibration exposure in the workplace with low risk of developing hand arm vibration syndrome. Rat tail vibration models of non-impact and impact vibration are used to define quantitatively the dose response characteristics that generate tissue injury, and determine whether tissue injury recovers following cessation of vibration exposure. Unfortunately, at this time hand arm vibration syndrome in many workers reaches the point of persistence, requiring the cessation of tool use and living with the disability of numbness and excessive vasospasms in the fingers.

Medical College of Wisconsin
Project period: 09/01/2011 - 08/31/2015

Projects Concluding in 2016

A Participatory Design Process Addressing Ergonomics of Hospital Patient Rooms

The long term goal of this application is to reduce musculoskeletal injuries and discomfort experienced by healthcare workers in institutional settings. In many workplaces the awkward postures and motions exhibited by workers, and the effort required to complete work-related tasks bear a direct relationship to the layout and organization of the workspace. This is particularly true for hospital workers administering care in patient rooms. Given that we are currently undergoing an unprecedented boom in healthcare facility, we are presented with a unique opportunity to address many of the room design parameters that create physical ergonomics issues for workers who provide direct patient care and other members of the hospital staff. This design work needs to also consider the following emerging trends in healthcare: (1) there is a move toward acuity-adaptable rooms which accommodate patients through varied levels of care during their hospital stays; (2) hospitals are bringing services to the patient rather than transporting patients to the services; and (3) patients (and visitors) are getting larger. The primary goal of this application is to address the needs of the many different stakeholder groups working in patient rooms through a systems approach, largely driven by a participatory design process, that will draw upon the expertise of a diverse, multi-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners. Specifically, the aims of this application are to: (1) Identify, observe, and analyze work tasks that, due to patient room design parameters, ergonomically challenge the identified stakeholders (users); (2) Obtain consensus on the ergonomic challenges associated with patient room design and elicit stakeholder specific recommendations regarding ergonomic aspects of patient room design; (3) Identify patient room design parameters that impact the needs of patients and their visitors and family members, and elicit alterations in patient room design parameters that best support those needs; (4) Resolve conflicts between stakeholder groups with regard to patient room design parameters, thereby, allowing for a clear set of design parameter recommendations for patient rooms. In sum, our process will yield a set of guidelines that will be useable and accessible to designers, planners, hospital administrators, and others interested in patient room design and lay the groundwork for future evidence-based research related to healthcare facility design.

Project period: 07/01/2012 - 06/30/2016

Case Crossover Study of Factors Associated with Patient Lift Equipment Use

This study seeks to identify and understand factors (or triggers) proximal to patient lifts and transfers that influence use of patient lift equipment. These triggers are the factors – environment, worker or patient – that are present at the time of the patient handling activity.

Duke University
Project period: 09/01/2014 - 08/31/2016

Determinants of Multisite Musculoskeletal Pain Among Construction Workers

For this three-year Mentored Research Scientist Development K-award training period, the candidate under the guidance of his K01 mentorship team, will engage in the following training and research plan: 1) a strategic five prong training approach to learn how to design and implement workplace health interventions, and 2) as the primary research objective of this K01 research application, collect pilot data through a 1-year prospective cohort study examining the relationship between occupational and non-occupational risk factors in predicting the occurrence of multisite musculoskeletal acute and chronic pain among construction workers.

Harvard School of Public Health
Project period: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2016

Exposure Response Relationships for CTS and Epicondylitis from Pooled Data


1) Quantify detailed, sub-task level biomechanical stressors, and

2) Determine exposure-response relationships between these detailed biomechanical stressors and carpal tunnel syndrome, and epicondylitis

This study's results will be of great help to employers, employees, and practitioners (engineers, and occupational health and safety professionals) to: (i) identify high risk elements within existing jobs or tasks and (ii) design safe, and productive new jobs and tasks.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Project period: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2016

Modifying the Workplace to Decrease Sedentary Behaviour and Improve

The purpose of this project is to determine the effects of decreasing sedentary behavior at work by at least 3hrs/day using treadmill (walking and standing) and sit-to-stand (standing only) workstations on the health of overweight office workers.

Northeastern University
Project period: 04/01/2014 - 03/31/2016

Mortality Consequences of Non-Fatal Occupational Injuries

The purpose of the project is to provide estimates of the impact of non-fatal lost-time occupational injuries on eventual mortality.

Boston University
Project period: 07/01/2014 - 06/30/2016

Obesity and Body Segment Parameters in Working Adults

Current models predicting anthropometric data, specifically, body segment parameters (BSP), are based on information collected in normal-weight young adults. However, over 60% of US workers are either overweight or obese, a problem that tends to increase as the workforce ages. New anthropometric models are needed to predict BSP that better reflect the current working population. In this project, we plan to quantify the impact of obesity and aging on normalized BSP and to develop regression models that include Body Mass Index (BMI) in the prediction of BSP. Sources of anthropometric data, specifically BSP, are of critical importance to assess stresses and loads on the body, and in the design of personal protective equipment, tools and workplace environments. Ultimately, the goal is to use such models to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.

University of Pittsburgh
Project period: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2016

Revised Force-Endurance Models for the US Workforce

This project will assess obesity-related differences in endurance and fatigue, which will provide useful information for understanding the impact of overweight and obesity on the performance of occupational activities and the subsequent risk of injury, particularly for those tasks requiring static postures that can be limited by fatigue development. In addition, the objective of this work is to provide ergonomics practitioners with revised force-endurance models that can be applied for work design and evaluation. Specific Aim 1 will address the main and interactive effects of obesity level and workload for sustained isometric hand grip, shoulder abduction, and torso extension tasks. Endurance will be evaluated at four levels of relative loading to provide results for an occupationally-relevant range of task demands. To achieve this aim, individuals who are non-obese, overweight, or obese and aged between 25-54 years will be recruited and asked to come in for four experimental sessions. During each session, participants will complete an endurance task for each muscle group at one workload level while endurance time and fatigue-related responses are quantified. With the data collected from Specific Aim 1, revised force-endurance models will be developed in Specific Aim 2. It is hypothesized that higher levels of obesity will be associated with impaired endurance capacity. It is also expected that the existing models are not predictive of endurance time for overweight and obese individuals, limiting their utility in ergonomics practice and requiring revised models to be protective of the muscle capacity of the changing workforce. Results from this research will contribute to understanding the impacts of obesity on the development of muscle fatigue, which is important for discerning the link between personal risk factors, such as obesity, and the risk of workplace injury. Application of the revised models can facilitate improved workplace design and job evaluation to accommodate the capacities of workers who are overweight or obese. Consistent with the National Occupational Research Agenda objectives, the long-term goal of the proposed work is to determine the impact of occupational exposures for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders and the improvement of worker health.

State University of New York
Project period: 09/01/2014 - 08/31/2016

Projects Concluding in 2017

Randomized Controlled Trial of Whole Body Vibration Intervention in Truck Drivers

Truck drivers suffer from numerous health issues, predominantly musculoskeletal disorders in the low back that have been strongly associated with exposure to whole body vibration (WBV). Recently, a new and innovative technology that reduces WBV has become commercially available. These new electromagnetic active vibration cancelling (EAVC) seat suspension systems counteract vibration detected at the floor of the cab through linear motors. Due to far greater fidelity in frequency response, these EAVC systems are far superior in reducing WBV compared to the conventional pneumatic suspension systems.

We propose a randomized controlled field trial evaluating the effects of an EAVC seat suspension system on a robust set of low back pain and disability outcomes. One hundred forty (140) long-haul truckers with low back pain at baseline will be randomized to receive a new EAVC seat (intervention) or a conventional air-ride seat (control). We will test the general hypothesis that truckers who receive the EVAC seat suspension systems will experience greater reduction in low back pain outcomes and WBV exposure compared to truckers who receive a standard air-ride seat (the control). Pre-and post pain and work diaries will be completed by truckers weekly for 4 weeks prior to the intervention and for 12 weeks post intervention. Surveys of low back pain severity and disability, general health, work-role functioning, and work environment will occur at baseline and follow-up at 3, 12, and 24 months post-intervention. The new and innovative suspension technology provides a seminal opportunity to use an RCT design to determine whether substantially reducing WBV exposures has an effect on low back pain outcomes.

The anticipated intermediate outcome of this research will be the adoption of the new and innovative truck driver seat suspension technology that drastically reduces exposure to whole body vibration. If this research demonstrates a health improvement with the reduction in exposure then we expect many larger trucking companies to adopt the technology. In addition, we expect several peer reviewed publications describing several aspects of the study. At a minimum we expect five publications describing the results of the RCT. Working with the manufacturer we will also develop education and training materials that will facilitate the adoption of the new seat suspension technology throughout the industry.

Project period: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2017

Survivor Bias in a Pooled Longitudinal Study of CTS and Related Work Disability

The objective of this research is to estimate the association between biomechanical exposures, work psychosocial exposures, and CTS or CTS-related work disability while adjusting for downward bias from the HWSE.

Project period: 07/01/2014 - 06/30/2017