About 4’000 to 6’000 employees work for the Swiss road maintenance services (SER). In the past years, the SER were able to reduce dramatically the frequency of accidents. However, besides the risk of accidents, the workers also have a number of other risk factors in their work environment that can either provoke or contribute to a large array of pathologies. The goal of this study was to improve our knowledge about the health status of the employees of the SER and to identify causes for short and long term absences.
This study is focusing on aspects regarding occupational medicine, ergonomics and occupational hygiene to understand the causes for diseases and absences in the road maintenance services. Studying work activities, physical and psychological stress, postures, tool handling, dangerous substances, and air pollutants will help identify potential risks for the workers' health.
The results of this study will allow proposing measures for adjusting work conditions and for defining future occupational medical services.
The project consists of the following steps:
1. A preliminary analysis of the work places and development of targeted research methods
2. A systematic medical examination of employees that includes paraclinical tests defined during the first step. This will permit to define the overall health status of the employees, to identify stress factors and diseases as well as impairments specific for this group of workers.
3. Examinations of work activities and health during all four seasons.
4. Finally, the results will be analysed and presented in the form of a report and a list of propositions how the work conditions may be improved regarding aspects of occupational health.
Key result is a report summarising the following outputs of the project:
Of the 56 employees working in the two road maintenance centers, 41 participated in the study (participation rate of 73%). The average exposure to fine particulate matter (< 10 µm) measured during the working periods varied between 20 and 180 µg/m3 depending on the type of activity. The maximal CO value was measured inside a tunnel during maintenance works reaching a peak value of 134 ppm (65 ppm was the maximal 15 minute mean value). The noise limit of 85dB(A) was exceeded during the tunnel maintenance work with a mean of 89dB(A). The other noise profiles varied between a mean of 79 and 82 dB(A). The activity analysis revealed several risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (TMS) associated to awkward postures, carrying heavy loads and vibrations. A large number of TMS was identified: between 50% and 80% of the employees had problems of the lower back, the shoulders and the neck. The medical exams showed several cardiovascular risk factors to be elevated: untreated hypertension, active and passive smoke exposure, overweight, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and cardiovascular family history. The lung function was lower than the expected theoretical values. More than 50% of the employees showed hearing deficits in the higher frequencies in their audiograms. Several psychosocial problems of professional origin were identified in the questionnaire and the follow-up during the study year.