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1.  Solving a methodological challenge in work stress evaluation with the Stress Assessment and Research Toolkit (StART): a study protocol 
Stress evaluation is a field of strong interest and challenging due to several methodological aspects in the evaluation process. The aim of this study is to propose a study protocol to test a new method (i.e., the Stress Assessment and Research Toolkit) to assess psychosocial risk factors at work.
This method addresses several methodological issues (e.g., subjective vs. objective, qualitative vs quantitative data) by assessing work-related stressors using different kinds of data: i) organisational archival data (organisational indicators sheet); ii) qualitative data (focus group); iii) worker perception (questionnaire); and iv) observational data (observational checklist) using mixed methods research. In addition, it allows positive and negative aspects of work to be considered conjointly, using an approach that considers at the same time job demands and job resources.
The integration of these sources of data can reduce the theoretical and methodological bias related to stress research in the work setting, allows researchers and professionals to obtain a reliable description of workers’ stress, providing a more articulate vision of psychosocial risks, and allows a large amount of data to be collected. Finally, the implementation of the method ensures in the long term a primary prevention for psychosocial risk management in that it aims to reduce or modify the intensity, frequency or duration of organisational demands.
PMCID: PMC3703449  PMID: 23799950
Stress; Psychosocial risk evaluation; Mixed methods; Study protocol
2.  Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in workers: classification and health surveillance – statements of the Scientific Committee on Musculoskeletal Disorders of the International Commission on Occupational Health 
The underlying purpose of this commentary and position paper is to achieve evidence-based recommendations on prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Such prevention can take different forms (primary, secondary and tertiary), occur at different levels (i.e. in a clinical setting, at the workplace, at national level) and involve several types of activities. Members of the Scientific Committee (SC) on MSDs of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) and other interested scientists and members of the public recently discussed the scientific and clinical future of prevention of (work-related) MSDs during five round-table sessions at two ICOH conferences (in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2009, and in Angers, France, in 2010). Approximately 50 researchers participated in each of the sessions. More specifically, the sessions aimed to discuss new developments since 1996 in measures and classification systems used both in research and in practice, and agree on future needs in the field.
The discussion focused on three questions: At what degree of severity does musculoskeletal ill health, and do health problems related to MSDs, in an individual worker or in a group of workers justify preventive action in occupational health? What reliable and valid instruments do we have in research to distinguish ‘normal musculoskeletal symptoms’ from ‘serious musculoskeletal symptoms’ in workers? What measures or classification system of musculoskeletal health will we need in the near future to address musculoskeletal health and related work ability?
Four new, agreed-upon statements were extrapolated from the discussions: 1. Musculoskeletal discomfort that is at risk of worsening with work activities, and that affects work ability or quality of life, needs to be identified. 2. We need to know our options of actions before identifying workers at risk (providing evidence-based medicine and applying the principle of best practice). 3. Classification systems and measures must include aspects such as the severity, frequency, and intensity of pain, as well as measures of impairment of functioning, which can help in prevention, treatment and prognosis. 4. We need to be aware of economic and/or socio-cultural consequences of classification systems and measures.
PMCID: PMC3437218  PMID: 22721454
Occupation; Epidemiology; Prevention; Aetiology; Expert opinion; Occupational health; Public health; Rheumatology; Rehabilitation; Orthopaedics
3.  Occupational Lifting Tasks and Retinal Detachment in Non-Myopics and Myopics: Extended Analysis of a Case-Control Study 
Safety and Health at Work  2012;3(1):52-57.
Lifting heavy weights involves the Valsalva manoeuvre, which leads to intraocular pressure spikes. We used data from a case-control study to further investigate the hypothesis that occupational lifting is a risk factor for retinal detachment.
The study population included 48 cases (patients operated for retinal detachment) and 84 controls (outpatients attending an eye clinic). The odds ratios (OR) of idiopathic retinal detachment were estimated with a logistic regression model (adjusted for age, sex and body mass index). Three indexes were used to examine exposure to lifting; 1) maximum load lifted, 2) average weekly lifting, 3) lifelong cumulative lifting.
For all indexes, the most exposed subjects showed an increased risk of retinal detachment compared with the unexposed (index 1: OR 3.57, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.21-10.48; index 2: OR 3.24, 95% CI 1.32-7.97; index 3: OR 2.23, 95% CI 1.27-8.74) and dose-response relationships were apparent.
These results reinforce the hypothesis that heavy occupational lifting may be a relevant risk factor for retinal detachment.
PMCID: PMC3430929  PMID: 22953231
Retinal detachment; Lifting; Occupational exposure; Occupational diseases; Case-control studies
4.  A study protocol for the evaluation of occupational mutagenic/carcinogenic risks in subjects exposed to antineoplastic drugs: a multicentric project 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:195.
Some industrial hygiene studies have assessed occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs; other epidemiological investigations have detected various toxicological effects in exposure groups labeled with the job title. In no research has the same population been studied both environmentally and epidemiologically. The protocol of the epidemiological study presented here uses an integrated environmental and biological monitoring approach. The aim is to assess in hospital nurses preparing and/or administering therapy to cancer patients the current level of occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs, DNA and chromosome damage as cancer predictive effects, and the association between the two.
About 80 healthy non-smoking female nurses, who job it is to prepare or handle antineoplastic drugs, and a reference group of about 80 healthy non-smoking female nurses not occupationally exposed to chemicals will be examined simultaneously in a cross-sectional study. All the workers will be recruited from five hospitals in northern and central Italy after their informed consent has been obtained.
Evaluation of surface contamination and dermal exposure to antineoplastic drugs will be assessed by determining cyclophosphamide on selected surfaces (wipes) and on the exposed nurses' clothes (pads). The concentration of unmetabolized cyclophosphamide as a biomarker of internal dose will be measured in end-shift urine samples from exposed nurses.
Biomarkers of effect and susceptibility will be assessed in exposed and unexposed nurses: urinary concentration of 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine; DNA damage detected using the single-cell microgel electrophoresis (comet) assay in peripheral white blood cells; micronuclei and chromosome aberrations in peripheral blood lymphocytes. Genetic polymorphisms for enzymes involved in metabolic detoxification (i.e. glutathione S-transferases) will also be analysed.
Using standardized questionnaires, occupational exposure will be determined in exposed nurses only, whereas potential confounders (medicine consumption, lifestyle habits, diet and other non-occupational exposures) will be assessed in both groups of hospital workers.
Statistical analysis will be performed to ascertain the association between occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs and biomarkers of DNA and chromosome damage, after taking into account the effects of individual genetic susceptibility, and the presence of confounding exposures.
The findings of the study will be useful in updating prevention procedures for handling antineoplastic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3074546  PMID: 21450074
5.  A case report of vibration-induced hand comorbidities in a postwoman 
Prolonged exposure to hand-transmitted vibration is associated with an increased occurrence of symptoms and signs of disorders in the vascular, neurological and osteoarticular systems of the upper limbs. However, the available epidemiological evidence is derived from studies on high vibration levels caused by vibratory tools, whereas little is known about possible upper limb disorders caused by chronic exposure to low vibration levels emitted by fixed sources.
Case presentation
We present the case of a postwoman who delivered mail for 15 years using a low-powered motorcycle. The woman was in good health until 2002, when she was diagnosed with bilateral Raynaud's phenomenon. In March 2003 a bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome was electromyographically diagnosed; surgical treatment was ineffective. Further examinations in 2005 highlighted the presence of chronic tendonitis (right middle finger flexor).
Risk assessment
From 1987, for 15 years, our patient rode her motorcycle for 4 h/day, carrying a load of 20-30 kg. For about a quarter of the time she drove over country roads. Using the information collected about the tasks carried out every day by the postwoman and some measurements performed on both handles of the motorcycle, as well as on both iron parts of the handlebars, we reconstructed the woman's previous exposure to hand-arm vibration. 8-hour energy-equivalent frequency weighted acceleration was about 2.4 m/s2. The lifetime dose was 1.5 × 109(m2/s4)hd.
The particular set of comorbidities presented by our patient suggests a common pathophysiological basis for all the diseases. Considering the level of exposure to vibrations and the lack of specific knowledge on the effects of vibration in women, we hypothesize an association between the work exposure and the onset of the diseases.
PMCID: PMC3045397  PMID: 21320318

Results 1-5 (5)