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21 December 2006 PR 06/143

Driving out pain for motorists

Researchers at Loughborough University are hoping to put an end to the back pain endured by thousands of motorists who drive as part of their job.

Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common form of work-related ill health in the UK, with an annual cost of more than £200 million – and employees who drive more than 20 hours a week are at particular risk.

Academics in the Department of Human Sciences have been awarded almost £200,000 by the BUPA Foundation to enable them to examine the effects of driving on people’s health. The research will involve the development of a driving ergonomics tool, which it is hoped will help businesses manage the risks posed by driving to employees.

Loughborough’s Dr Diane Gyi, who is leading the project, said: “We are delighted to have been given funding by the BUPA Foundation to carry out this important research. Briton’s work the longest hours in Europe and many spend vast amounts of time driving as part of their job.

“Driving itself enforces a constrained posture, but in addition the car is increasingly being used as a mobile workplace with associated health risks. Research at Loughborough University has shown that prevention strategies that are tailored to the drivers’ needs are much more effective in terms of changing behaviour and improving health. The tool we will develop has the potential to encourage employers to invest in health, leading to improvements in the short, medium and long term health outcomes of employees and enhancing organisational performance.”

For the project the University will work closely with drivers and other key players, such as occupational health nurses, physicians, safety managers and advisors, from three large organisations. They will use questionnaires, interviews and hands on evaluations to draw up tailored advice on how motorists can try and avoid developing musculoskeletal disorders in the future.

This advice will then be developed into a special tool, freely available on a website, which will guide company policy and decision making for the occupational health management of driving workforces in the UK.

The Loughborough project is one of five to be funded by the BUPA Foundation. The Foundation hands out grants annually to research based on specialist themes, and the theme for this year’s funding programme is ‘health in the workplace, promoting good health in the work setting’.

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, Deputy Chairman of the BUPA Foundation, said: “The Foundation is dedicated to funding medical research to prevent, relieve and cure sickness and ill health, and these projects aim to take major steps in the understanding of a wide range of work-related health issues. By making people aware of what is healthy behaviour, we believe they will be more motivated to practice it. We’re delighted to be funding these extremely valuable initiatives.”

ENDS

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Notes to editors
Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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