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Back Belts Worn at Work Not Effective
The above was the conclusion of a study published in the December 6, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA). The report in JAMA started off by noting that usage of these devices is becoming more common. "Despite scientific uncertainties about effectiveness, wearing back belts in the hopes of preventing costly and disabling low back injury in employees is becoming common in the workplace."
The study interviewed 9377 employees from 160 stores. Of those stores in the study, 89 required back-belt use and 71 had voluntary belt use. The study would then track the incidence rate of material-handling back injury workers compensation claims as well as a 6-month incidence rate of self-reported low back pain among the workers.
The conclusion of the study was clear. As explained by the JAMA article, "In the largest prospective cohort study of back belt use, adjusted for multiple individual risk factors, neither frequent back belt use nor a store policy that required belt use was associated with reduced incidence of back injury claims or low back pain." In simpler terms, these belts do not work to prevent the problems for which they were designed.