Not-so-good vibrations can be harmful

July 18, 2013

Photo credit: Shovelling Son on Flickr

Photo credit: Shovelling Son on Flickr

Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet is known as whole-body vibration (WBV) – and it can lead to fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and muscle fatigue, especially in the back. Depending on the terrain, all those expansion plates on bridges and speed bumps can lead to lower back pain over time – something that tends to hit older workers with a greater impact.

CCOHS raised the topic on Twitter, with the tweet “Not-so-good-vibrations: Learn about the risks of hand-arm & whole body vibration hazards in the workplace” and a link to a new podcast about the topic.

I recently learned more about vibration as a safety hazard from SafetyDriven – the Trucking Safety Council of BC. They talked about whole-body vibration at their recent conference/AGM – which presented research by ergonomists in Washington State who want to see if providing people with new seats has any effect on low-back pain and work function. Watch this video to see how researchers are collecting and measuring vibration data. They have been looking at the differences between mechanical and air suspension on the seats of trucks.

This article from the SafetyDriven newsletter describes us – human beings – as “incredibly complex structures – performing the widest imaginable tasks day in and day out.”

“In our efforts to do more, we increase our reliance on machinery that exposes us to long periods of whole body vibration. In response, our bodies experience physiological failures much the same way our machines experience mechanical failures,” the newsletter reads.

Thankfully there are ways to minimize these risks, including seats with air suspension and ongoing research into what’s working for drivers, as the SafetyDriven conference video shows. I will update on this topic and hope to hear your comments.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK also offers a number of resources on whole-body vibration, including a whole-body vibration calculator that “… calculates the daily vibration exposure that an employee is subjected to allowing the employee to analyse the risk and an employer to meet health and safety requirements.”

Asking road users what they need

July 03, 2012

BC HighwayCams: "Know before you go"

“Where would you like to see a BC HighwayCam in our province to better help you know before you go?”

It’s an important question indeed – for working drivers and the public – and throughout June it was TranBC‘s monthly survey question. These cameras contribute to the safety of all road users who can go online, see road conditions, and plan their routes.

TranBC is an online education, awareness, and engagement initiative of the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. It was on Twitter that I first saw a link to their HighwayCam survey – and I wondered how many participated.

I asked Russel Lolacher, director of social media for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Business Management Services. He said (on June 21) they had received more than 500. (Update: “FYI, we ended up with over 700 responses to the web cam survey. Great feedback as to where people want new cams,” said @TranBC via Twitter on July 3).

“BC highway webcams are one of our most popular online services here at the Ministry of Transportation, and to better serve the public, we want to engage those that use them,” Russel said, via email. “We would like to hear from professional drivers due to their experience, travelling our transportation consistently. Their knowledge is invaluable, as is their input.”

Starting conversations and building relationships

TranBC is using many platforms to connect with their stakeholders – i.e., this survey, along with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more (see below). I asked Russel if he had any advice for organizations who want to use this social media technology to get input from their own stakeholders.

“The best piece of advice I would recommend is not to look at it as using technology, but rather as hearing from people. The social platforms you’ve just mentioned are just tools, it’s the human engagement that matters most regardless of the medium you use,” Russel said.

“To be successful in hearing from your stakeholders, an organization has to look at it as an ongoing conversation and relationship building, rather than ‘one-offs.’ Through our social channels such as TranBC and DriveBC, we are working to build a long-term presence as the online BC Transportation resource for the travelling public.”

Each month, TranBC is launching a different survey. In July, the public is invited to share their views on how Transportation and Infrastructure can improve its level of customer service.

You can find TranBC on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Foursquare, and – most recently – Pinterest.

Saving the boss

October 11, 2011

Photo credit: thepretenda's Big Truck Sequence on Flickr

Here’s another story from Petr, a former mechanic who once had a job changing tires of trucks stranded on the freeways of Quebec and Ontario. He was an apprentice to Tony, who was “very, very tough.”

Once they were called in the middle of the night to a huge transport vehicle stranded near Dorval Airport.

“It looked like a crippled yellow dinosaur, kneeling by a small curb. To lift anything of that magnitude and get the wheels off, you need two jacks,” Petr explained. “You stack up large pieces of flat wood under the other jack and alternate until you have that sucker about two feet high.”

“Truckasaurus” comes down

Tony was under the rear axle, half-way through the lift, when the vehicle began to shake. Luckily Petr was paying attention.

Photo credit: gbergin on Flickr

“The wind was blowing pretty hard from the airport, and the dinosaur started rocking. I threw down the next two wooden blocks and shouted. All I could think to say was: ‘Tony, come out, it’s shaking!’

“I was tugging at his snow gear. He was on his left side when truckasaurus came down. It flexed the planks stuffed under the axle to keep it from going all the way to the ground, but Tony was still on his side. As soon as it bounced back up, he kind of flopped onto his back, and the monster rested with about half an inch to clear his chest. I pulled him out by his parka that was snagged on the big yellow axle,” Petr said.

Photo credit: Tom Lee KelSo on Flickr

“Tony was one of those guys who took six arrows in old Westerns – and he really was that tough. He didn’t die. He just got tougher and meaner. But that night, he went home and I had to drive his massive red truck because he couldn’t turn the wheel.”

A similar tale

Luckily Tony was relatively unhurt compared to this WorkSafeBC Hazard Alert that describes how a worker suffered a broken pelvis and tailbone after being crushed under heavy mining equipment.

Thanks again to Petr for sharing his story. If you have a story to share about safety in the workplace, please email me.

Truckers falling from own cabs

June 09, 2011

What's your impact? Simulations of force on your body when you leave and enter a truck cab

Most people probably think truckers’ greatest safety risk is being in a collision. It isn’t. The most likely way truckers are injured on the job is by falling out of their cabs or off their trailers.

To show the impact of these falls, the Trucking Safety Council of BC has a new resource on its website. Determine Your Impact Force is a simulation that shows what type of force you will experience based on your body weight when you fall from certain heights.

For example, I enter my weight and see that if I jump down from the second level step, I’m taking an impact equivalent to the collision force a linebacker feels tackling a fullback. Ouch. That would hurt if I landed on my feet, and who knows what would happen if I landed on some other body part.

For curiosity’s sake, I enter 250 pounds to see how much greater the impact would be. A person of that weight could break their skull falling from the second level step – so stepping carefully is a very good idea!

“Fortunately, injuries can be prevented by taking the time to enter and exit safely and correctly,” reads the Trucking Council website, offering lots of tips and links to more information on safety in that industry.

Here’s an especially good tip for anyone getting in or out of any kind of vehicle: “…your focus should be on entry/exit movement – distraction by cell phone use, holding a coffee cup, or paperwork greatly increases the risks of losing your balance and getting injured.”

Try the simulation and see what would happen to you. Then be careful.

Logging roads the right way

April 12, 2011

The highest peaks of the Bella Coola Spires, photo credit: Drew Brayshaw on Flickr

A video clip from WorkSafeBC got me thinking about my own experiences travelling on BC’s logging roads.

Once I went camping with some friends outside Bella Coola, in a beautiful spot, up a logging road – also known as a “resource road,” used by industry. The mountains, water, forest, and fresh air were amazing, but when a fully loaded logging truck thundered by, I got pretty worried.

My companions, who were from the area, insisted it was safe. We had already braved the narrow switchback roads through the Chilcotin Mountains driving from Vancouver to Bella Coola in my Ford pickup. One of my friends took over the driving after Williams Lake – all downhill, through the peaks, into the valley that led to their town. When he pretended to lose control of the brakes, my heart skipped a few beats. Read more