With improper lifting probably being the greatest single cause of back pain and injury, NIOSH, in collaboration with the Ohio State University, has published an article in Applied Ergonomics on the effectiveness of a vacuum lifting system in reducing spinal strain or loading during airline baggage handling.
The study evaluated the techniques (i.e., manual lifting or lifting with vacuum lift system), task (i.e., loading or unloading suitcase), and baggage cart shelf height (61cm or 133.4cm) on lumbar spinal loads of ten subjects, who performed industry average loading and unloading tasks (e.g. 14.5kg) in a laboratory.
The study found that on average, use of the vacuum lifting assist device reduced compression and shear forces on the lower back by 39% and 25%, respectively. In fact, these forces were reduced below the damage threshold for musculoskeletal injury.