Practical implementation of the results from the project concerning stress upon the lumbar spine during shovelling

Project No. BGIA 4143


completed 04/2008


The maximum compression forces measured in the course of Project 4132, "Determination of compression forces on the intervertebral disc L5/S1 for shovelling work tasks", exhibit considerable scatter as a function of the shovelling technique and work speed, with the result that a uniform stress value cannot be stated for the shovelling task. In response to an initiative by the BG BAU (the institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention for the construction sector), a panel of experts was therefore to interpret the measurement data in the interests of consistent assessment during investigation of cases of formally recognized occupational disease. The objective of the project was that of producing a guide to assessment of the workplace criteria during the investigation procedure for formally recognized occupational disease (BK) 2108 for the task of shovelling, based upon the results of Project 4132.


A statistical analysis and interpretation were first conducted of the biomechanical stress data obtained in the course of Project 4132. The different shovelling techniques and tasks were grouped according to comparable compression forces. A panel of experts comprising delegates from the BG BAU, the Institute of Occupational Physiology at the University of Dortmund (IfADo), and the BGIA - Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was then to draw up a consensus proposal for assessment of the disk compression forces occurring during shovelling tasks.


In the light of the identified distribution of the disk compression forces, it appeared appropriate to classify the various shovelling tasks as either the routine or the special case. In the routine case, a maximum disk compression force of 3.5 kN and a stress duration of 2 s per shovelling cycle may be assumed. In the exceptional, special case, which applies at a very high working pace, as experienced for example by concrete floor layers' assistants during exclusive shovelling of sand, the maximum compression force is 6.25 kN for a stress duration of 1.5 s per shovelling cycle. The shovel load in all cases is approximately 8 kg.

In order for the daily dose caused by shovelling work to be determined, the quantity of bulk material shovelled each day, i.e. the work completed each day, such as the number of cubic metres of concrete floor laid or the number of batches produced, must be obtained. This permits more reliable calculation of the quantity of bulk material shovelled, and ultimately the number of shovelling cycles per working shift, than a direct question concerning the number of shovelling cycles per day or via calculation from the overall duration of the shovelling activity per working shift.

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Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • BGIA - Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung
  • Institut für Arbeitsphysiologie an der Universität Dortmund (IfADo)

construction industry

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Erkrankungen, Handhabung von Lasten


Muskel-Skelett-Erkrankungen (außer Krebserkrankungen), Physische Beanspruchung/Belastung, Berufskrankheit

Description, key words:

occupational disease, evaluation of stress, lumbar disk, lifting and carrying tasks, shovelling, stress measurements