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Farming Machinery Whole-Body Vibration and Back Pain

– Back pain and low
back pain in particular is really the most common
complaint of working people worldwide, across
virtually all industries. So, it’s an enormous problem and farming is interesting because people use all types of machinery to get done what needs
to happen on the farm. Vibrating equipment can
place demands on the back that can increase one’s chances of experiencing back pain down the road. So, it’s not surprising, but we observed that agricultural machinery
does expose people to relatively high levels of vibration. We did find some interesting differences between machine types. We found that combines
were a little bit lower in vibration level and
also more consistent. Whereas something like a tractor or maybe a skid-steer or an ATV may be used for all
kinds of different things on the farm, and so we
see a lot more variability in the vibration levels on
those pieces of equipment. I will say that manufacturers
have come a long way over the last few decades in terms of equipment design and seat design, especially seat suspension systems. There are new seats that act a lot like noise cancelling headphones that
sense the incoming vibration and emit a cancelling vibration,
which is really cool. The daily dose of vibration is related both to how strong a vibration is but also the duration of use. Operating vibrating
equipment is fatiguing, physically fatiguing for the back. I mean, you’re shaking around and your body is constantly
responding to that, trying to stabilize your spine. So one of the things that ergonomists have discussed for a long time is that as you get out of machine, after you’ve been in it
for a period of time, just walk around a little bit, take a little break
before you start lifting other heavy stuff because that, you don’t need to be imposing
other physical demands on your back after you’ve been in a vibration environment
for a long time.

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