Back disorders and health problems among subway train operators exposed to whole-body vibration

Scand J Work Environ Health. 1991 Dec;17(6):414-9. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.1681.


Back disease associated with whole-body vibration has not been evaluated for subway train operators. A recent study demonstrated that this group is exposed to whole-body vibration at levels above the international standard. To investigate this risk further, a self-administered questionnaire survey was conducted among subway train operators (N = 492) and a similar reference group (N = 92). The operators had a higher prevalence than the referents in all aspects of back problems, particularly for cervical and lower back pain. In a multiple logistic regression model, the odds ratio for sciatic pain among subway train operators was 3.9 (95% CI 1.7-8.6); the operators also had a higher risk of hearing-related problems (odds ratio 3.2, 95% CI 0.6-17.4) and of gastrointestinal problems (odds ratio 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.5). Although a cumulative dose-response relationship could not be statistically demonstrated, the findings appear to be related to exposure to whole-body vibration and inadequate ergonomic conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / etiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology*
  • New York City
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Railroads*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / etiology
  • Vibration / adverse effects*