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Risk Factors for Illness Absence Due to Musculoskeletal Disorders in a 4-Year Prospective Study of a Petroleum-Manufacturing Population

Tsai, Shan P. PhD; Bhojani, Faiyaz A. MD, DrPH; Wendt, Judy K. MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 4 - p 434–440
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182128b12
Original Articles

Objectives: To quantify risk factors for nonoccupational absence from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) among petroleum-manufacturing employees.

Methods: We conducted a 4-year follow-up study including 860 employees with an MSD illness absence of 4 days or longer and 5691 employees with no MSD absence. Odds ratios were calculated using logistic regression.

Results: Risk of MSD absence from low back and non–low back disorders was significantly associated with physically demanding job, overweight/obesity, prior absence from MSD, and absence from cardiovascular, respiratory, or mental illness, or accidents during the study period. Smoking also increased risk of low back disorders.

Conclusions: Results suggest it is possible to reduce the impact of MSD through integrated safety prevention and health promotion programs including traditional elements of job factor evaluation, training, and ergonomics, but also health counseling and support for weight reduction, smoking cessation, and personal fitness programs.

From the Shell Oil Company, Shell Health, One Shell Plaza, Houston, Tex.

Address correspondence to: Shan P. Tsai, PhD, Shell Oil Company, Shell Health, One Shell Plaza, PO Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252–2463; E-mail:

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine