Today’s highly connected and mobile workplaces mean more and more workers spend long hours behind the wheel. Whether it’s commuting between offices, working in sales, or providing business to business services; car drivers end up covering substantial distances on a weekly basis, and employers need to be aware of the importance of ergonomics for car drivers.
Almost always, people who spend a lot of time in a vehicle tend to experience a certain degree of discomfort or body aches. The problem is even more pronounced for drivers as it is more difficult to change body positions when driving. Again, the high amount of hours career drivers spend behind the wheel makes them vulnerable to all sorts of body injuries. This, coupled with poor driver ergonomics, can increase the risk of developing body injuries, and in serious cases, musculoskeletal disorders.
Driving ergonomics and the risk of injury
Driver ergonomics focus on creating vehicle environments in which people have a lower chance of injury. Due to the way drivers sustain injuries, it is not only the high-mileage drivers who are at risk of suffering discomfort or injury but anyone who drives regularly.
Typically, workers operating vehicles are more prone to injuries than workers sitting in an office due to the effects of movement and vibration on the body. The most common WHS issues associated with driving include body stress injuries, including tennis elbow, neck strains, foot cramps, lumbar pains, side aches, shoulder pains and knee pains. Pins and needles and stiffness after a journey are also common.
While most of these conditions are temporary, they can lead to life-long pain and suffering if not addressed. Some of the serious complications that can result include the deterioration of the spine’s health and degeneration of the spinal discs.
Common causes of driver injuries
The main causes of car driver injuries include:
Sitting for long periods of time in an incorrect posture is the number one cause of driver injuries. This can be as a result of personal habit or from an incorrectly fitted or improperly adjusted seat.
Whole-body vibration is another major cause of back pain among vehicle operators. Drivers can reduce the effect by adding extra padding over the seat to absorb much of the vibrations and minimise the risk of injury.
Shape of the vehicle seat
The design of the vehicle seat itself can cause pain or discomfort at pressure points. To avoid this, you should ensure your vehicles are fitted with ergonomically correct seats and that adjustments are made where necessary.
Improving your employees’ driving ergonomics
Generally, drivers are often overlooked when it comes to workplace ergonomics, even though their workstations are less adjustable than those found in offices. Actually, very few employers are aware of the risk posed, not through collision, but simply through sitting in or operating a vehicle.
Have you ever thought about the suitability of your fleet according to your common practices? As the employer, you should take ergonomics into account when providing employees with vehicles. Your vehicles should be suited to the tasks at hand and the specific needs of your employees.
Very few drivers understand what constitutes a good seated driving posture and how poor ergonomics can affect their well being. Therefore, it’s essential to provide adequate training on vehicle ergonomics to ensure that your drivers are practicing the right car ergonomics. In addition to causing posture-related injuries, poor ergonomics increases fatigue, a key contributor to preventable accidents.
Car ergonomics assessment
When undertaking an occupational driving risk assessment, you should consider both the driver and the vehicle. Before assigning vehicles, take time to analyse the drivers’ physical characteristics, including body size and height and any pre-existing medical conditions.
If possible, ensure that each vehicle should match the driver’s specific physical attributes and any physical limitations the driver may have. To achieve this, adjustability is key, especially if the vehicle is shared among workers.
When carrying out an ergonomics assessment, you should also factor in the amount of time the driver spends in the vehicle and the distance covered. In addition, you should examine various aspects such as;
The ease of getting in and out of the vehicle
Are the door handles easy to open and do the open doors provide enough space to get in and out easily? Where the driver has to climb steps and use handholds to enter the vehicle cab, care should be taken to ensure both are located appropriately and designed to prevent slipping.
Seat and seating space
The seating space should be sufficient enough for the occupant to sit in and maintain a neutral posture. The driver’s seat should be well-positioned, ensuring proper reach and sufficient headroom. For maximum comfort, the seat height from the floor and the distance between the seat and the steering wheel should be independently adjustable.
The steering wheel should require less effort to use. Consider whether the steering wheel can be adjusted up and down as well as in and out.
Practicing proper ergonomics can have a significant impact on your company’s bottom line. Not only can it reduce worker’s compensation costs, but also it can help improve driver efficiency and productivity.
At Recovery Partners, we provide our clients with premium ergonomic solutions for the workplace. Our team of experts can help you assess your fleet’s ergonomic suitability, helping minimise the risk of injury and absenteeism among employees.
Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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