Prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among brick kiln workers in rural Southern India

Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2013 May;17(2):71-5. doi: 10.4103/0019-5278.123170.


Background: A variety of musculoskeletal disorders and discomfort are seen among brick kiln workers, where heavy physical work is associated with awkward working postures and manual handling of materials, leading to significant morbidity.

Materials and methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in unorganized brick kiln industries in villages of Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and included 310 brick kiln workers. Modified Nordic Questionnaire was used to survey the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders and the intensity of pain was assessed by the body pain discomfort scale.

Results: The mean age of the workers was 37 ± 13.2 years with a range of 18-85 years. 62% (n = 192) had normal body mass index, whereas 27% (n = 85) were undernourished. The commonest posture adopted at work was squatting (67%) followed by standing (14%). Majority of workers (87%, n = 269) reported to having symptoms of pain currently of which 51% (n = 158) had pain during work. Chronic low back ache (LBA) (1 year prevalence -59%) and acute LBA (1 week prevalence-33%) were the commonest followed by chronic knee pain. More than 10 years of work was significantly associated (P < 0.05) with acute LBA and acute and chronic knee pain. Severity of the pain was also significantly (t statistic 2.476, P < 0.05) associated with job dissatisfaction.

Conclusion: Long-term brick kiln workers, who adopt a specific posture for prolonged periods, have severe musculoskeletal pain that interferes with activities of daily living and reduces job satisfaction. Health education on frequent postural change, implementation and monitoring of laws among unorganized industries are recommended to bring down morbidity due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

Keywords: Brick kiln workers; low back pain; musculoskeletal disorders.