Research

Lifting 10kg or more can triple chances of shoulder surgery 
Researchers from Denmark's Aarhus University and the Danish Ramazzini Centre have found that the risk of workers needing shoulder surgery can triple from exposure to a common form of workplace exertion.  The occupational medicine researchers analysed 10 years of employment data, and found lifting and carrying loads of 10kg or more, and pushing and pulling loads of 50kg or more, were significantly linked to subsequent surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome. This condition, which affects up to eight per cent of all workers, encompasses a variety of non-traumatic and often unilateral disorders affecting tissues in the shoulders, including tendinitis, subacromial bursitis and tears.

The risk of surgery increased with both exposure duration and intensity, and was particularly high for workers performing lifting and carrying, they found. They found that after 10 years of high intensity of lifting/carrying loads, the risk was almost three times higher among the most exposed compared with the non-exposed. They also identified that for pushing/pulling loads there was a maximum of 72 per cent increase in risk compared with the non-exposed.

As a result of their findings, the researchers said:

  • preventative efforts should focus on reducing the demands associated with lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling loads;
  • lifting and carrying loads, in particular, should be considered hazardous; 
  • assessment of ergonomic exposures for the shoulder should include lifting/carrying and pushing/pulling loads to supplement the assessment of other known harmful exposures to the shoulder such as shoulder force, repetitive shoulder movements and upper-arm elevation;
  • workers with shoulder pain should avoid or at least reduce lifting/carrying and pushing/pulling loads to alleviate their pain; 
  • technical solutions can be implemented in the workplace to reduce the lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of loads. 

In order to comply with duties under Victoria's Hazardous Manual Regulations, employers must look to implement workplace controls to eliminate/minimise the risk of injury to workers first. 
Read more: 
Bjørn Riddervold, et al, Occupational lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling loads and risk of surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome: a register-based cohort study. [Abstract] [Full text PDF] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online March 2022, Doi: 10.1136/oemed-2021-108166. Source: OHS Alert 

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