Video: How can truckers avoid back pain?

July 09, 2013

Prolonged sitting can lead to back pain, which can become chronic and lead to other problems. Thankfully truck drivers can reduce the risks by following tips in this new video from WorkSafeBC. Adjusting backrests, seats, mirrors, and other parts of the cab helps. So does safe exiting – using 3-point contact – and taking frequent breaks to get out of the truck and walk around.

I asked safety advisor Earl Galavan about the prevalence of back strain among the employers he helps at the Trucking Safety Council of BC. He sent me a link to this baseline report that shows back injury is the number one body part injured in both General Trucking and Moving and Storage classification units. Earl said to note pages 9 and 13, where you will find more information – including the fact that back strains accounted for more than $10 million in claim costs from 2007 to 2011.

Safety for hotel room attendants

September 22, 2011

Photo credit: SpeakingofSafety on Flickr

When you’re pushing carts, making beds, lifting, and bending, it’s important to use the best ergonomics possible and take precautions to avoid slips, trips, and falls.

A post on OHS Online looks at this group of workers and outlines a new NIOSH fact sheet on how to improve safety for them.

Most room cleaners are women, many are immigrants, and their injury rate is the highest among hotel workers.

NIOSH advises organizations to “identify and evaluate hazards and adopt interventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the hotel environment” – and this is exactly what a group of hotel industry reps is doing in BC.

Hotel safety in BC

Trina Wright is the program manager, industry health and safety at go2 – the BC tourism and hospitality industry’s human resource association. go2 is also the industry’s health & safety resource and COR certifying partner.

Trina facilitates an industry health & safety technical advisory committee of general managers, HR and safety professionals from BC hotel properties. The group is working together to identify key accidents for the hotel sector and develop strategies for prevention.

“We will aid the rest of the sector in reducing their injury rate, cost, and duration,” Trina said via email. “One of our key focuses this year is reducing the injury rate and duration for housekeeping staff.”

Michael King is a member of the technical advisory committee. He’s the safety and loss prevention manager for Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, where he and his colleagues have been testing an assistive device for workers who change beds. It’s called BedToolzzz and some Fairmont workers are trained to use it. Michael said they may use it for training and return-to-work programs.

I asked Michael how changing beds can pose an ergonomic hazard.

“In most guest rooms the design aspect takes precedent over the practicality of cleaning a room, which means that rooms are often tightly configured with little space between the bed and the bedside tables,” Michael wrote. “This makes access to the head area and corner of the bed very tricky unless excellent ergonomics are used.”

go2 also has a technical advisory committee looking at workers’ safety on BC’s 40 ski hills – so stay tuned for more.

More info on room cleaner safety

Preventing Injuries to Room Attendants from WorkSafeBC

Hotel Housekeeping – OSH Answers from CCOHS

Ergonomic chair can prevent aches and pains

September 13, 2011

It's me - Susan the Speaking of Safety blogger, at my home office in Vancouver on a hot summer day

Every writer needs a good chair.

That gem of advice is from my university professor 20 years ago – and I’ve always kept it in mind. Without a good chair, he said, writers may sit awkwardly, overstraining our muscles. Doing this for many years can lead to repetitive strain injuries.

From WorkSafeBC's How to Make Your Computer Workstation Fit You

I recalled my teacher’s advice when I started feeling extra muscle stiffness in my upper back. It was time for a new chair at my home office.

I asked Facebook: “What’s the best ergonomic chair?” and someone suggested an Aeron chair by Herman Miller. It had positive reviews online, and I ended up finding one, “gently used,” on Craigslist from a nearby store that liquidates office furniture.

How to adjust your chair

When I got the chair home, I referred to the WorkSafeBC manual How to Make Your Computer Workstation Fit You and adjusted the height of my chair and monitor as recommended.

But now, when I look at my photo – compared to the diagram – I see I am too far forward in my chair, without proper back support. I’ll have to fine tune my setup – along with being mindful of my posture, stretching, exercising, and drinking more water and less coffee.

What more can I do?

Despite my efforts, I still get a bit of upper back stiffness, though nothing too bad. Maybe it strains muscles when I use my laptop and/or iPhone in my car or at a cafe because I have to tilt my head downwards to see their screens.

I’d like to ask an ergonomist what more I can do. How can I make my workstation even better? What’s an ergonomic way to use laptops on the go? Please share your suggestions or links.

Don’t overload kids’ backpacks

September 09, 2011

Photo credit: dr burtoni on Flickr

In the workplace, people who lift heavy loads should be careful to avoid overexertion injuries – and the same thing goes for kids carrying heavy backpacks.

For workers, WorkSafeBC offers a Lift/Lower Calculator to determine safe load limits. Kids, as a rule, should not carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their own body-weight in their backpacks.

But maybe some people don’t realize this, because I see lots of kids heading back to school wearing great, big backpacks. It seems like they are toting much more than I ever did at that age – and sadly, this can lead to chronic back problems later in life, according to a story in The Tribune (and many other articles on this important topic).

“When the development of the muscular system is messed up that can lead to having bad posture,” chiropractor Jacqueline Lightbourn told The Tribune. “Bad posture is the main contributor to low back pain, arthritis, disc problems and anything to do with the back, neck, and mid-back.”

Students need to stop transporting so many heavy things – and I’d like to see their parents, schools, and caregivers helping to coordinate this. People can brainstorm solutions and arrangements can be made.

Choosing the right backpack

The American Academy of Pediatric Surgeons recommends these features in a backpack:

* Wide, padded shoulder straps
* Two shoulder straps
* Padded back
* Waist strap
* Lightweight backpack
* Rolling backpack

For more information on choosing and using backpacks, check out:

Pack it Light, Wear it Right – includes a poster, pamphlets and fact sheets for distribution to children and parents (that can be customized for individual school districts) from the BC Chiropractic Association

BACK FACTS: Backpacks from the Canadian Chiropractic Association

Lightening the Load: Tips for Backpack Safety from Canadian Chiropractor magazine

Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students from The American Occupational Therapy Association

Backpack Safety Awareness from the Virginia Chiropractic Association

Santa’s safety tips

December 14, 2010

Photo credit: Nigel Wedge on Flickr

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