Evaluation and interpretation of the "German Spine Study" (EPILIFT)

Project No. BGIA 4140


completed 02/2008


In 2002, an epidemiological case-control study commissioned by the HVBG (the German federation of institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention) was launched for the purpose of studying dose-effect relationships for formally recognized occupational disease No. 2108. This study, the "German Spine Study" (EPILIFT), involved a medical and radiological identification of cases and a two-stage exposure assessment for all test subjects. The second stage of this exposure survey was conducted by the technical inspectorates of the BGs for the industrial and agricultural sectors and the public-sector accident insurers. It was co-ordinated by the BGIA - Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance. In the course of this survey, comprehensive exposure data for approximately 1,200 test subjects were passed to the BGIA, which then archived them. The objective of this project was to prepare the exposure data collected in this way, to evaluate them in accordance with relevant criteria, and to interpret the results from various perspectives in collaboration with the other research centres.


An MS Access database was planned at the BGIA into which all exposure data from the technical inspectorates could be imported automatically, or in exceptional cases entered manually. The database was to be structured such that the data records, which differ widely according to the test subjects' occupational history, could be incorporated without difficulty.
Besides importing of the exposure data from the technical inspectorates, a link was also required to the results obtained by other research centres involved in the project, in order for certain evaluations to be performed. Once all the data records had been imported and tested for plausibility, selected search operations were to be programmed for the various issues.


Development of the MS Access database was completed during the term of the project. From the interviews conducted by the technical inspectorates, a total of 1,201 records were imported into the database. The relevant exposure data for all test subjects whose exposure had been assessed by the EPILIFT study were therefore available at a single location. These data include 7,000 periods of employment, 8,500 working shifts and 9,300 handled loads (approximate values), and also 850 vehicles. These data were documented for the purpose of study of the exposure to whole-body vibration.
Plausibility criteria were programmed, enabling errors in the body of data to be detected and corrected. Search routines were programmed for searches throughout the body of data and for useful inquiries. As a result, a search dialog provides over 50 search criteria.
Owing to the complexity of its structure, the body of data prepared in this way can now be used for a range of purposes in the area of ergonomics.

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Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BGIA
  • IfADo
  • Landesgewerbearzt Hessen
  • J.-W.-Goethe Universität Frankfurt/M.
  • Freiburger Forschungsstelle Arbeits- und Sozialmedizin
  • M-Luther-Universität Halle
  • Orthopädische Universitäts-Klinik Regensburg

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Erkrankungen, Handhabung von Lasten, Mehrfachbelastungen


Berufskrankheit, Epidemiologie, Exposition

Description, key words:

epidemiological case-control study, multi-centre study, BK (formally recognized occupational disease) No. 2108, disk prolapse, intervertebral chondrosis, exposure measurement, technical inspectorates, expert opinion, creation of a database, research inquiries, statistical evaluation