An evaluation of a weightlifting belt and back injury prevention training class for airline baggage handlers

Appl Ergon. 1992 Oct;23(5):319-29. doi: 10.1016/0003-6870(92)90293-5.


This study evaluated the efficacy of a commercially available weightlifting belt in relation to reduction of lumbar injury incident rate and severity of injuries over an 8-month period. The study used 642 baggage handlers working for a major airline company as participants. Four treatment groups were randomly selected: a group receiving the belt only, a group receiving a 1 h training class only, a group receiving both a belt and a 1 h training class, and a control group receiving nothing. Two treatment groups were added which contained participants who discontinued use of the belt prior to the end of an 8-month study period. Results indicated that there were no significant differences for total lumbar injury incident rate, restricted workday case injury incident rate, lost workdays and restricted workdays rate, and worker's compensation rates. There was, however, a marginal significant difference for lost workday case injury incident rate. Groups with participants who wore the belt for a while then discontinued its use had a higher lost day case injury incident rate than did either the group receiving training only or the control group. Compliance was an overriding factor as the belt questionnaire response indicated that 58% of participants in the belt groups discontinued use of the belt before the end of 8 months. Comments made on the survey forms indicated that the belt was too hot. Similarly, comments suggested that the belt rubbed, pinched, and bruised ribs. Based on these results, the weightlifting belt used for this study cannot be recommended for use in aid of lifting during daily work activities of baggage handlers. Results indicate that use of the belts may, in fact, increase the risk of injury when not wearing a belt following a period of wearing a belt. As industries are experimenting with the use of belts, it is recommended that great care be taken in any further evaluation and close attention directed towards injuries which occur when not wearing the belt following a period of wearing the belt (ie, off-the-job injuries).