BACKGROUND: Many countries are experiencing an aging workforce with women workers making up a growing proportion. Workplaces often require employees to complete lifting tasks that require the ability of the hand to grasp an implement (coupling). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed an equation for manual lifting tasks hoping to minimize the potential for a workplace back-injury related to a lifting task. The NIOSH lifting equation relies upon stress variables including a coupling factor. However, little is known regarding grip strength as related to the NIOSH lifting equation coupling factor. The purpose of this study was to investigate differences in grip strength due to gender in older adults.
METHODS: The participant's (68-88 years) maximal grip (MG) strength measures were collected for each hand with a hand grip dynamometer (kg). MG scores were converted to Newtons (N), normalized to body mass, and allometrically scaled. Measures of MG were than compared between genders with an independent t-test.
RESULTS: The hand grip measures of MG (kg) [male: 30.3 ± 5.6, female: 10.6 ± 3.3], MG (kg) / body mass (kg) [male: 0.35 ± 0.06, female: 0.16 ± 0.04], MG (N) / (body mass (kg))0.67 [male: 15.1 ± 2.5, female: 6.2 ± 1.7], and MG (N) / (body height (m))1.84 [male: 103.6 ± 18.6, female: 42.6 ± 10.6] were all significantly lower (p < 0.0001) for women than men. Regardless of how grip strength was reported, there is a strong difference in grip strength between genders in this sample. The NIOSH lifting equation does not account for varying grip strength due to aging and gender differences.
CONCLUSIONS: It is recommended that grip strength variability be accounted for in the coupling factor of the NIOSH lifting equation.