You know driving can be dangerous, and you take precautions to ensure that your fleet of vehicles is upfitted for collision safety. What you may not realize is that beyond the risk of traffic accidents, professionals who drive on the job are at higher risk for other injuries and degenerative conditions. You can help keep your workforce healthy and productive by using ergonomics in your vehicle upfitting.
What Are the Hidden Risks of Driving?
The way your vehicle is layed out is an important risk factor to take into consideration. Drivers and passengers alike can suffer general discomfort, foot cramps, low back pain, stiff neck, sore shoulders, and other repetitive driving injuries (RDIs). These degenerative disorders can be caused by poor posture, stress, tension, low-level vibrations, and staying in one posture or position for an extended period. Repetitive hand motions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Is Ergonomics and How Can It Help My Fleet?
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA), ergonomics is the science of designing the elements of each worker’s job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing a worker’s body to fit the job. This can involve adapting tasks, workstations, tools, and equipment to fit each worker to help reduce physical stress and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders.2
Upfitting vehicles to be safe while driving for all officers involves making sure it has adjustable features that allow each driver to fit the vehicle to their needs. Outfitting vehicle interiors to provide postural and thermal comfort, sufficient space, acceptable noise levels, and well-oriented controls can be significant.
Make sure that drivers of different heights and shapes can reach the pedals and controls, have sufficient headroom, sit high enough to see out the front and side windows and mirrors, reach the steering wheel without stretching the arms, and easily access radios, equipment, or other controls.
How Can an Experienced Vehicle Upfitter Help Improve Ergonomics?
Vehicle upfitting using an officer-first perspecitve can help improve your fleet’s comfort and safety. Your upfitter should engage in an ergonomic review of your vehicles to ensure each vehicle is adaptable to all potential users’ needs and physiology. For example, each driver should have sufficient room (10–12 inches) between the steering wheel and his or her chest to allow the seat belt and air bag to provide maximum safety protection in case of a crash. The steering column should not interfere with leg movement or bump the knees when getting in and out of the vehicle or while steering and operating the pedals. Solutions like redesigning the console or computer mount configurations can make driving more comfortable and less likely to contribute to MSDs.
An experienced upfitter can help you engage in a thourough analysis to take stock of your users’ needs and current ergonomic challenges. Upfits can modify and improve your fleet to successfully prevent or reduce the various MSD hazards your drivers encounter. Keltek can help you evaluate all your organization’s needs and develop an upfit plan to meet them. Contact us today.