Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Milos Nedved

Second Advisor

Jacques Oosthuizen


The objective of this study was to examine the effect of the mandatory introduction of back belts on the incidence, days lost and cost of occupational low back injuries resulting from manual handling in 11 retail hardware chain. The study was of a non-experimental before-and-after design with all retail employees in Western Australia being included in a retrospective cohort. The pre-intervention period extended for 21 months and included 2,265,933 work hours with 647 full-time equivalent positions, while the intervention period was 32 months for 4,411,352 hours worked and 827 full-time equivalent positions. Workers' compensation claims for all occupational injuries occurring during the study period were analysed. During the intervention period there was a 14% reduction in the incidence frequency rate for all low back pain claims and a 33% reduction in those low back pain claims resulting in lost time, but neither reduction was statistically significant. During the intervention period there was a significant 69% reduction in the average days lost per low back pain claim and a 79"/o reduction in the days lost to low back pain per hours worked. The average direct cost was reduced by 77% for all low back pain claims and 74% for low back claims resulting in lost time, and 80% and 83% respectively when analysed per hours worked. The author concluded that the mandatory use of back belts significantly reduces the days lost due to, and the cost of occupational low back p3in resulting from manual handing in the workplace and provides a cost effective control measure if high compliance is maintained.