Prevalence and associated risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and physiological stress among the female brick molders of West Bengal, India
Objective: Women play a significant role in the Indian economy and are regarded as the backbone of the brickfield industry where they face a variety of stressors that predispose them to increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. The present study aimed to estimate the prevalence of upper limb musculoskeletal disorders and physiological stress compared to a control group. Methods: The Nordic Modified Questionnaire (NMQ) was completed by 85 women brick molders to assess feelings of discomfort (pain) in different parts of the body. Furthermore, the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) posture analysis tool explored the risk of upper-limb musculoskeletal disorders (ULMSDs). Handgrip strength was also measured using a handgrip dynamometer, and cardiovascular stresses were assessed by measuring heart rate, blood pressure and lung function parameters. Results: The results of the study revealed that upper limb MSDs are a significant problem among women brick molders, primarily involving the hand (97.6%), shoulder (94.1%), wrist (72.9%) and fingers (56.5%). Subjective discomfort ratings among the brick molders indicated pain (96.5%), followed by tingling (90.6%), numbness (88.2%) and stiffness (61.2%) in their hands. The detailed analysis of the RULA score revealed that the upper arms, lower arms and wrists were high-risk areas for MSDs. Soon after completion of work, the participants experienced reductions in the hand-grip strength compared to the control group. Heart rate brick molders as higher in comparison to control group, just after the completion of work. However, there was no significant change in maximum Heart rate (HRmax) and Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) between the two groups, but significant associations were observed in net cardiac cost (NCC) and relative cardiac cost (RCC). Blood pressure measures were higher in the brick molders after work as well Conclusion: Women brick molders engaged continuously in highly repetitive hand-intensive jobs and suffered from discomfort in the upper extremities. The RULA posture analysis results indicated that the working posture of women brick molders were at high risk for MSDs, which requires changes immediately. Female brick molders also presented with reduced lung function values compared to the controls Findings of this study highlight the need for various ergonomic interventions that can be applied to improve the safety of the molders and workplace conditions of the brickfield during molding activities.