Study design: Cross-sectional part of a longitudinal study in 571 male construction workers.
Objectives: The Hamburg construction worker study is being conducted to assess the extent of musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers and factors predisposing for or leading to musculoskeletal disorders. The purpose of this analysis is to report findings about the association between job history and low back disorder.
Summary of background data: Repetitive strain in forced positions during long periods of time has been reported as a risk factor for low back disorder. Of all construction workers, bricklayers predominantly are exposed to these conditions.
Methods: Subjects were recruited mainly from a routine health check-up. A structured interview with complete job history, job related activities, and symptoms was administered, and a detailed standardized physical examination was performed. Age-adjusted prevalences of low back pain were calculated, and logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios and their confidence intervals for different durations of working in a specific job category and physical signs of low back disorder, adjusting for a variety of possible confounders.
Results: The 12 month prevalence of low back pain was highest in painters (57%), intermediate in concrete builders and bricklayers (41%), and lowest in carpenters and unskilled workers (38%). The age-adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of low back disorder for having worked longer than 10 years as a bricklayer was 2.3 (1.2-4.5).
Conclusions: Working longer than 10 years as a bricklayer was associated with signs of low back disorder. No comparable associations were found for house painters, carpenters, nor concrete builders. If replicated, these findings could be used to focus preventive measures on bricklayers with a long job history.