Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 409–421 | Cite as

Work and Family Support Systems and the Prevalence of Lower Back Problems in a South African Steel Industry

  • Bernard van Vuuren
  • Evert Zinzen
  • Hendrik J. van Heerden
  • Piet J. Becker
  • Romain Meeusen



Back complaints are a common in society.


An analytical cross-sectional epidemiological study was carried out among 366 steel plant workers to examine the prevalence and association between lower back problems (LBP) and family and workplace related psychosocial risk factors.


Using inclusive and stringent definitions for LBP, point prevalence was 35.8% and 15.3%, respectively. Logistic regression analyses indicated significant adjusted odd ratios (OR) for negative perceptions of workplace support (2.32; CI 1.09–4.92), unexpected events (2.58; CI 1.19–5.59) and working under time pressures and deadlines (2.83; CI 1.24–6.48). A significant protective association was found for control over the order and pace of working tasks (OR 0.30; CI 0.14–0.63). A significant univariate association was further found between LBP and negative perceptions of family (1.97; CI 1.06–3.68) support.


These findings suggest that workers who feel more in control on the job and who have good family and workplace support systems in tact are less likely to experience LBP. Supervisors are therefore encouraged to develop appropriate support and organizational systems which may be an inexpensive, but potentially beneficial, means of reducing worker stress and LBP.


Epidemiology Back pain Steel workers Perceived risks South Africa 



The authors would like to thank the management, in particular Deon van Vuuren, and the workforce of the specific steel plant under study for their cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard van Vuuren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Evert Zinzen
    • 3
  • Hendrik J. van Heerden
    • 4
  • Piet J. Becker
    • 5
    • 6
  • Romain Meeusen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biokinetics, Sport and Leisure Sciences, LC de Villiers Sport CentreUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department Human Physiology & Sports Medicine, Faculty LKVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Movement Education and Sports training, Faculty LKVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.School for Physiotherapy, Sport Science and OptometryUniversity of Kwa-Zulu NatalDurbanSouth Africa
  5. 5.Biostatistics UnitMedical Research Council of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa
  6. 6.Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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