Study design: A prospective cohort study was conducted.
Objective: To find risk factors for short-term (<or=14 days) and long-term (>14 days) sickness absence because of low back pain among scaffolders.
Summary of background data: Although some studies have described the relation between work-related risk factors for musculoskeletal disease and sickness absence, little is known about the role of individual, physical, and psychosocial factors and different end points of low back pain as risk factors for sickness absence among scaffolders.
Methods: Between 1998 and 2001, 222 scaffolders and 66 supervisors (response rate, 86%) completed a questionnaire at baseline. In addition, data on sickness absence were collected from absence records.
Results: At baseline, 60% of the study population had experienced an episode of low back pain in the 12 months preceding the investigation, 37% of which were of chronic nature. During the follow-up period, 34% of the population had been on sick leave for at least one episode of low back pain. The risk factors for sickness absence less than 2 weeks were a high physical load from strenuous arm movements and severe low back pain. Workers with severe low back pain were at higher risk for sickness absence longer than 2 weeks. Psychosocial workload and individual characteristics did not predict the occurrence of sickness absence because of low back pain.
Conclusions: Because work-related physical load was a risk factor for sickness absence less than 2 weeks and severe low back pain was a risk factor for sickness absence both shorter than and longer than 2 weeks, a focus on secondary prevention for scaffolders with severe low back pain is advised.