If you want to work in a safe environment with little or no risks, you should not look at a career in commercial vehicle driving. The United States Department of Labor says trucking is one of the most hazardous industries in California and across the country. It is worth noting that a significant number of the injuries truck operators suffer are not related to road accidents.
The business of cargo-hauling and material handling poses a variety of occupational safety hazards. Many of the risks relate to the competitiveness of this industry. Unrealistic deadlines and the pressure to get to destinations faster, make more trips or drive more miles often cause truck drivers and their employers to lose sight of health risks.
Common work-related hazards for truckers
If you operate a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler or another big rig, it might be a good idea to note the following dangers and learn to mitigate the risks:
- Fatigue: Never lose sight of the importance of alertness because the slightest inattention can have devastating consequences. Always monitor your level of fatigue and take breaks when necessary.
- Move about during rest stops: While a 10- or 15-minute power nap could be a good idea, moving about is crucial. After a nap and before further driving, get out and walk around to stretch and mitigate the hazards posed by remaining in a sitting position for hours on end.
- The interior ergonomics: Your truck’s interior should provide maximum comfort. Your weight, height, the steering wheel position, the switches, instrument panel backrest and seat height are all crucial to limit restrictions and prevent leg cramps, low back pain and more.
- Step with care: The areas surrounding your truck at truck stops or delivery bays could pose severe slip-and-fall risks. Look out for oil, grease, ice or other hazardous contaminants as well as uneven or cracked walking surfaces.
- Avoid jumping from the cab: Hours of driving can deaden your senses, and such a jump could cause risks of injuries to the lower extremities of your back. Instead, exit with care and climb down to prevent impact injuries.
- Dress for comfort: Clothes and shoes that are too tight can hamper your blood circulation, which could compromise your overall health.
- Whole-body vibration: Tilt your seat to a position that would limit the effect of the vibration caused by the road. You might not even notice the vibration, but high frequencies of vibration over time can cause damage to your spine.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: You have nothing to prove, so avoid being macho when it comes to loading or unloading cargo. Make use of mechanized equipment like forklifts or get help instead of overexerting your muscles.
Workers’ compensation challenges
Although you might find comfort in knowing that the California workers’ compensation will have your back in the event of an injury, your travels across state lines could complicate benefits claims. An experienced workers compensation attorney could be instrumental in obtaining maximum applicable benefits even if your injuries occurred in another state. Your medical expenses and lost wages will form part of the benefits, and the court might award additional compensation if your injuries caused permanent disability.