Long days on the road. City driving. Country driving. Heavy machinery and heavy lifting. The trucking life works for many drivers, but it comes with risks. Accidents happen and bodies strain under the stress the lifestyle doles out. Any driver, and anyone who employs them, needs to be aware of the health risks and take steps to mitigate them.
With the size and momentum of the vehicles truck drivers spend most of their work time in combined with the sheer number of hours they’re operating them, accidents happen. You might be the best truck driver that ever took to the road, but that’s not going to stop the destruction a moment’s attention lapse — or an unavoidable distracted driver in the other lane — causes.
A traffic accident in any vehicle can result in awful injuries. The risk will never be zero given the number of things that can go wrong, but truck cabs should be outfitted with the best safety equipment possible, and drivers have to stay attentive. They shouldn’t be pushed to drive to the point of fatigue. A late shipment is a lot cheaper than one that goes up in flames, a wrecked vehicle, and a driver absent on disability — or worse.
Repetitive Strain Injuries
Like many professions, truck driving carries a risk of repetitive strain injuries. With drivers sitting in place for hours, with hands on the wheel and head restricted, their bodies may over time develop a repetitive strain injury.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling, aches, swelling, loss of strength, and muscle wasting. For truck drivers, these are likely to present in arms, elbows, wrists, shoulders, and the neck, and have an effect on the driver’s quality of life as well as their ability to do their job.
RSI development can be alleviated by drivers adjusting their seating position as it becomes uncomfortable, adopting good posture, stretching and flexing when they have the opportunity to do so, and taking regular breaks.
Heavy Lifting Injuries
Many drivers will need to assist with loading and unloading, which often means heavy lifting. Things need to get from the warehouse floor to the truck, and tight schedules can affect the health and safety diligence required to do so responsibly. Drivers are liable to pull muscles, sprain their backs and injure their spines, and injure their wrists and elbows.
If you or your employees need to lift, carry, and place heavy objects, insist on it being done right. Understand correct posture, use forklifts or pallet jacks as appropriate, keep backs straight, use ramps, and don’t try to carry too much just to save time.
Remember, saving five minutes isn’t worth being off work for five months.
What to Do When an Employee Sustains an Injury
Even the best attempts to prevent injury cannot be 100 per cent successful. Accidents happen, or people misjudge what they can handle, or are simply put in unsafe situations against everyone’s best efforts.
You may find that the circumstances and extent of the injury are unclear. When that happens, don’t be afraid to pursue additional information. You may find an Independent Medical Assessment a useful resource to obtain clarity on what’s going on, what your responsibilities are, and how to return to work and accommodate an injured employee. Find out more about IMEs in the return to work process, or reach out to Western Medical Assessments to get direct advice.