When you think of bus driver safety, you might think of driving and road hazards; however, there are a few safety concerns related to what happens on board the bus that need to be considered for bus driver safety as well. One of the more obvious concerns is difficult passenger management and how to handle passengers that might pose a risk to others. The other less talked about safety concern is bus driver ergonomics.
Bus Driver Ergonomics and Safety
A study of 1,233 bus drivers in San Francisco showed a direct correlation between lower back injuries and weekly driving. Severe injuries increased 39 percent for every ten hours added to weekly driving time. These musculoskeletal injuries are often caused by prolonged sitting, the way the driver is sitting, and hunching over the wheel.
Reducing the number of hours a vehicle operator spends driving from more than 30 hours per week to driving less than 30 hours per week can reduce lower back injuries by almost 60 percent; however, this reduction from full-time to the part-time workforce can be detrimental to both the workers and the employers.
One way that employers can combat lower back injuries without compromising their workforce or straining themselves to find more part-time employees is to incorporate ergonomic practices onto the busses. An uncomfortable bus seat or insufficient back support are contributing factors to lower back pain, as well as, sitting for prolonged periods with poor posture.
Physical activity has been determined to be one of the leading ways to prevent lower back injuries. Taking walks before and after driving shifts, stretching, and driving in split shifts rather than one long eight-hour day. Bus drivers who can work split shifts should consider walking or stretching on their break. There are also special back and seat supports explicitly made to help with bus driver ergonomics and lower back pain.
Stretches and Exercises for Improved Bus Driver Safety
Walking is one of the best ways to counter the stress the body takes on when seated for extended periods. Even if it’s just walking around the parking lot while waiting for the students to get back from a field trip, getting off the bus and walking is vital for improving blood circulation and weight management, and lessens the risk for heart disease or sudden coronary events. Bus drivers can also try Yoga, Thai Chi, or cycling to help stretch their muscles and relieve tension created by sitting all day long. Aim to have at minimum one hour of physical activity per day.
There are a few straightforward stretches the bus drivers can do while they are standing up on the bus, at the end of their route, and even from their seat:
- Backward bends - place your hands on your hips at the small of your back. Lean backward at a 45-degree angle and hold for five seconds. Return to an upright position and repeat five times to help decompress your spine.
- Forward bends - while sitting or standing, place your hands on your hips and lean forward at a 45-degree angle and hold for five seconds. Return to an upright position and repeat five times to help increase leg circulation and loosen hamstrings.
- Side bends - Starting with both hands on your sides, raise one arm level with your shoulders and bend to the side as if you are reaching with that hand. Return to the resting position with hands on your sides and then switch to stretching the other arm. Do this five times on each side to help with loosening and lengthening the torso muscles and your hips.
- Knee bends - With your back flat against a wall or the side of the bus, place your hands against the wall, then raise each knee one at a time and turn the knee so that your leg crosses your body. Hold your knee like this for 30-60 seconds then return to resting position before repeating on the opposite knee. These stretches help to loosen your glutes and pelvis.
- Neck stretches - Stretch one arm out 90 degrees while keeping the other hand on your hip. Reach as far as you can with the stretched arm while gently stretching your neck the opposite way as if you were trying to pull the two apart. Hold for 5-10 seconds in the full stretch then return to resting position before repeating on the other side. This stretching technique relieves tension in the neck and shoulders.
When bus driving companies start having drivers with lower back injuries and pain, they are more at risk for sudden call-offs, prolonged absences, and even their bus operators being put on medications that shouldn’t be taken while driving. This creates a bus driver shortage, and with driver hiring and training taking weeks to complete, shortages can put a real strain on school districts, charter bus companies, and other driver professions.
One of the best ways a bus driving company can improve their bus operator safety is to partner with a specialist in the bus driver ergonomics business. Work Fit is the partner you need to reduce injuries and improve your bus driver ergonomics. The specialists at Work Fit can assess the ergonomics of the busses and work with you to create plans to reduce stressors that are contributing to bus driver injuries.
To see how Work Fit can help improve your bus operator safety, reduce injuries, and teach you about bus driver ergonomics, call us today at 888-968-2980.