(HealthDay News) – The JobFit System pre-employment functional assessment (PEFA) can predict musculoskeletal injury risk in healthy mineworkers, according to a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Spine.

Jennifer Legge, PhD, from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues recruited participants hired at an Australian coal mine between 2002–2009. Six hundred participants (median age, 37 years) were initially screened with the JobFit System PEFA, and classified as PEFA 1 if they met job demands and PEFA >1, if not. The correlation between PEFA classification and time to first injury was assessed. Company records were used to code injury data for body part, mechanism, and severity.

The researchers found that 427 participants scored PEFA 1. One hundred twenty-one workers reported 196 sprain/strain injuries, including 35 back injuries from manual handling. Over the long term, but not the short term, time to first injury for all injury types varied significantly between PEFA groups (any injury: adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 2.3; manual handling injury: HR, 3.3; any back injury: HR, 3.3; back injuries from manual handling: HR, 5.8). The predictive ability for back injuries from manual handling was acceptable during the long term (area under the receiver operator curve, 0.73).

“Future research should assess whether use of these assessments as part of a holistic risk management program can decrease workplace musculoskeletal injuries,” the authors write.

Relevant financial activities outside the submitted work were disclosed: board membership, employment.

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