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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 813-817

Prevalence and risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders among natural gas field workers

1 Public Health and Community Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt
2 Rasheed Petroleum Company, Rasheed, Egypt

Date of Submission26-Jul-2016
Date of Acceptance09-Oct-2016
Date of Web Publication15-Nov-2017

Correspondence Address:
Mohamed M Hasan El-Kholyb
Shebin el-Kom, Menoufia, 32511
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1110-2098.218274

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This work aimed at studying the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among workers in natural gas fields and studying the relationship between the resultant health disorders and the working conditions.
Workers at natural gas fields are continuously exposed to numerous hazardous materials and working conditions that place them at continuous risk of injury or death.
Participants and methods
A cross-sectional study carried out on 172 workers in one of the natural gas fields in Egypt.
The prevalence of regional musculoskeletal pain was 47.7% in the studied workers. Low back pain was the most prevalent (30.5%), followed by knee pain (17.1%), wrist pain (12.2%), neck pain (11.0%), shoulder pain (8.5%), elbow pain (7.3%), hand pain (6.1%), foot pain (4.9%), and ankle pain (2.4%), respectively. The percentage of musculoskeletal pain was significantly higher in workers with over 9 years' work duration (P = 0.00).
Musculoskeletal manifestations were prevalent among natural gas field workers due to their exposure to multiple stressors in the workplace. With increasing duration of work, musculoskeletal manifestations become more prominent.

Keywords: heavy weight lifting, joint reflexes, locomotor system, low back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, natural gas workers, range of motion

How to cite this article:
Abu Salema ME, Mahrousa OA, Kasemya ZA, Allama HK, Hasan El-Kholyb MM. Prevalence and risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders among natural gas field workers. Menoufia Med J 2017;30:813-7

How to cite this URL:
Abu Salema ME, Mahrousa OA, Kasemya ZA, Allama HK, Hasan El-Kholyb MM. Prevalence and risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders among natural gas field workers. Menoufia Med J [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Apr 5];30:813-7. Available from: http://www.mmj.eg.net/text.asp?2017/30/3/813/218274

  Introduction Top

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are degenerative diseases and inflammatory conditions that cause pain and impair normal activities [1]. MSDs are injuries or pain in the body's joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck, and the back. MSDs can arise from a sudden exertion (e.g., lifting a heavy object) or they can arise from making the same motions repeatedly, repeated exposure to force, vibration, or awkward posture [2]. Examples of specific MSD disorders are carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, and tendinitis [3]. MSDs are the most frequent health complaints [4] and the third leading reason for disability and early retirement among workers worldwide [5]. Work-related MSDs impair the quality of life and lead to loss of work time with financial consequences for the individual, employers, and society [6]. MSDs are more prevalent in some occupations than in others. In a study of workers in Norway's offshore petroleum industry over 12 years [1992–2003), work-related MSDs made up half of all occupational diseases [7].

Perhaps the most important personal factor that predisposes one to an increased risk is age. Workers in this age group are more likely to suffer from lower back pain [8]. They are also at a higher risk for injury due to age-related hearing loss[9], visual impairment [10], and use of multiple prescription medications [11], which has been linked to higher rates of work injuries [12]. In addition to age, other personal risk factors for injury include obesity [13], particularly its associated risk with back injury and depression [14].

This work aims at studying the prevalence of MSDs that might arise due to working in a natural gas field and the relationship between the resultant health disorders and the working conditions.

  Participants and Methods Top

Study design

This study was carried out at one of the natural gas fields of 'The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS)', which is located in the petroleum industrial zone, Edku city, Bohira governorate. It has been established since 1998. This study was conducted from the beginning of July 2015 to the end of May 2016.

Ethical considerations

Written formal consents were signed by all participants before testing, and each participant was asked to do his best. They were reassured about the strict confidentiality of any obtained information, and that the study would be used only for the purpose of research. The study procedures were free from any harmful effects on the participants as well as the service provided. The consent form was developed according to the international ethical guidelines for biomedical research involving human participants as prepared by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences in collaboration with the World Health Organizations. The Menoufia Faculty of Medicine Committee for Medical Research Ethics reviewed and formally approved the study before its beginning.

Sample size

This cross-sectional study was conducted on a sample of 172 participants distributed as follows; operational departments: 109 workers; administrative departments: 32 workers; and support services departments: 31 workers; control group: an equal number (172 subjects) of participants were chosen randomly from the workers' relatives. They were never working in petroleum fields.

Exclusion criteria included the following:

  • A history of systemic illness (liver, kidney diseases, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, gout, endocrinal, and metabolic disorders)
  • A history of administration of myotoxic drugs such as colchicine, lipid-lowering agents, or corticosteroids
  • A history of chronic condition or surgery of four limbs or the spine as total joint replacement, arthroscopy, fracture, dislocation, osteoporosis, or spondylolisthesis
  • A history of congenital, hereditary, peripheral, or axial joint diseases
  • A history of any connective tissue disease
  • A history of arthritis; inflammatory, septic, metabolic, or secondary to malignancy.


Three visits to the processing gas plant were carried out before the beginning of the study aiming at characterizing and observing the steps of the industrial process, identifying the hazards to which workers were exposed, and observing safety measures used. All participants were subjected to the following:

  1. Questionnaire: The participants were asked to fill a predesigned questionnaire. This questionnaire included:
    1. Personal data: Name, age, residence, etc
    2. A detailed occupational history: Present and past (duration of employment, nature of job, mean hours of the daily work, number of days worked/week, and additional jobs)
    3. Complaint and present history of health problems: Including musculoskeletal pain, restricted movement, fatigue, weakness, numbness, paresthesia, muscle spasm, referred pain, headache, joint swelling, bleeding disorders, pallor, skin redness, and present medication: dose and duration of administration
    4. Past history: Serious diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, previous operations, drug allergy, and hospital admission
    5. Family history: Similar conditions in siblings or parents
  2. Clinical examination was carried out for the chosen participants:
    1. General examination
    2. Locomotor system examination: through (i) inspection; (ii) palpation; (iii) range of motion, which includes active range of motion and passive range of motion
  3. Radiological investigations: The suspected participants were subjected to radiological investigations, which included radiography and MRI.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was generated using the SPSS statistical software (SPSS16, 2007; SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA). Results are expressed as number and %. The c2-test was used for qualitative variables. A P value of 0.05 or less was set to be significant.

  Results Top

This study included 172 workers in a natural gas field and 172 controls. There were no female field workers, as male workers were only employed in this place. All of them were eligible and agreed to take part in the survey. All personnel in the field worked 12-h shifts per day for 1 week and then have 1 week off. The results showed a highly significant difference between the workers group and controls regarding long standing, vibration, and climbing stairs (P = 0.00) and significant difference in overtwisting (P = 0.002) and long sitting (P = 0.04), whereas the difference in heavy-weight lifting was nonsignificant [Table 1]. There was a highly significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints among workers than among controls (P = 0.00) [Table 2]. The most prevalent musculoskeletal symptom among workers were low back pain, followed by knee, wrist, neck, shoulder, elbow, hand, foot, and ankle pain [Table 3]. A highly significant difference was present between the workers group and controls regarding affected muscle power and muscle tone (P = 0.00) and a significant difference regarding affected peripheral sensation (P = 0.02) and joint reflexes (P = 0.00) [Table 4]. [Table 5] reveals that the most frequent findings on radiographic imaging are articular erosions of joints in all workers group. [Table 6] reveals that muscle affection is the most prevalent finding on MRI imaging, followed by lumbosacral disc prolapse, and then cervical disc prolapse in all workers group. [Table 7] shows a highly significant difference between those with over 9 years' work who complained of musculoskeletal pain (P = 0.00) and others with less than 9 years' work, whereas a significant difference for painful movement, progressive pain, and tingling hand or feet.
Table 1: Comparison between studied groups regarding the nature of work

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Table 2: Comparison between studied groups regarding present musculoskeletal symptoms

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Table 3: Frequency of skeletal pain sites among workers

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Table 4: Comparison between studied groups regarding locomotor system examination

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Table 5: Radiograph of studied workers

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Table 6: Comparison between studied workers regarding MRI

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Table 7: Comparison between studied workers with different periods of employment regarding present musculoskeletal symptoms

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  Discussion Top

The present study showed that the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain among natural gas field workers was high (47.7%), and this was compatible with the study conducted by Sadeghian et al. [15], which showed that the prevalence of musculoskeletal manifestations among Iranian oil field workers was high (86.7%). This study was carried out through a cross-sectional survey among 60 workers in one of the southern oil fields of Iran in 2008. Improvement in the systems and operating practices nowadays might explain the less prevalent MSD than in the past. Field jobs such as explorations, drilling, maintenance, and cleaning of high storage tanks were described as partially physically demanding tasks, involving frequent kneeling, twisting, bending of the trunk, working above shoulder height, working with a bent back, and walking across the wide field area, and so in comparison between studied groups regarding the nature of work, results revealed that there was a highly significant difference between the workers group and controls regarding long standing, vibration, and climbing stairs and significant difference in overtwisting and long sitting. In the present study, the most prevalent MSD was low back pain (30.5% of those with musculoskeletal pain), which was similar to a previous study conducted by Chen et al. [16] in China, where the most prevalent MSD among oil field workers was low back pain (32%). Improvement in the safety and prevention measures nowadays could explain the findings that were reported by Chung and Kee [17], which indicate that 78.5% of the workers performing tasks that require trunk twisting were reported to have experienced low back pain.

On examination of the locomotor system, it was noticed that affected muscle power, muscle tone, peripheral sensation, and joint reflexes were statistically more prevalent in the workers group than among controls. In a comparison between studied workers group regarding radiological investigations, the most frequent findings on radiographic imaging were articular erosion of the joints (15%) of all three workers group. Accordingly, MRI scanning in the current study revealed that muscle affection was the most prevalent, followed by lumbosacral disc prolapse, and then cervical disc prolapse of all workers group. This agreed with the survey that was conducted by Fernandes and Carvalho [18] among 1026 oil-drilling workers in northeast Brazil, which reported a 5% prevalence rate of intervertebral disc disease. In this study, there was a highly significant difference in the percentage of musculoskeletal pain among those with over 9 years' work compared with others. This was in partial agreement with other similar studies. For example, in the offshore petroleum industry in Norway, back and knee problems accounted for 20 and 12% of work-related MSDs over 12 years [7].

  Conclusion Top

This study found a high prevalence of musculoskeletal manifestations among natural gas field workers, specifically for low back pain. The most consistent risk factors for symptoms were long standing, climbing stairs, and vibration. Hence, more attention should be paid for adaptation of the working conditions to the capacity of the worker through ergonomic design of tools, workplaces, and equipment. Radiological investigations should be included in the periodic medical examination for exposed workers for early detection of MSDs.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7]


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