Stay healthy, drive ergonomically

    Wednesday, April 29, 2020

    Online shopping behavior in Europe has increased significantly during the corona crisis. It’s one of the ways people are approaching this period of isolation and uncertainty. From bulk-buying to online shopping, people are changing what they’re buying, when, and how. The boost in online shopping is impacting courier companies big and small. From the largest international exporter to the smallest man-and-van courier. And the increase of online shopping of course also affects the health of all delivery drivers who are going the extra mile these days. Athlon has advice for them: stay healthy, drive ergonomically!

    The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle – sitting for long periods – at offices are also a threat for people who drive for work: they often sit in their vehicles for hours without moving very much. Many drivers don’t realize how important an ergonomic sitting position is to their health. What impact does hours of driving have on our bodies? What is the importance of ergonomics in a vehicle?

    There are two major risks associated with this. Not only do professional drivers have a greater chance of contracting serious back problems; they are also more likely to suffer from general health conditions, such as heart and vascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

    Employer and employee go hand in hand
    Ergonomics is the shared responsibility of the employer and the employee. The employer can take all kinds of ergonomic and technical measures, but it is ultimately the drivers themselves who have to apply these in practice. Driving for hours every day is often accompanied by an unhealthy lifestyle: professional drivers eat on the go, often miss hot meals and don’t always get enough exercise. This results in health risks and it’s important that the drivers themselves are sufficiently aware of these hazards. It is therefore of crucial importance that drivers are duly informed and that awareness is raised about this topic. But first and foremost, the ergonomics of a vehicle have to be technologically completely in order. That’s the foundation for increasing awareness.

    Modern van possibilities
    The days when a commercial vehicle was just a metal box on wheels are long past. Modern vans ensure comforts like ergonomic seats, airbags and functional loading space. On an ergonomic seat, the seat height, seat depth and distance from the pedals should be adjustable. The backrest should also be adjustable: not only the angle of the backrest, but also the height and depth of the convex shape in the lower back should be adjustable. For drivers of vans, air-sprung seats with settings that can be adjusted in conformity with their body weight is often an option. This helps to absorb as many shocks as possible, even though most of the roads in Europe are of a good standard of good quality and shocks are not too much of a problem.

    3 easy tips that make the difference

    Take a break
    Just like in an office setting, frequent breaks are required while driving, too. The rule of thumb is to take a short break for every hour of driving. During these breaks, it’s important to get out, walk around and do some stretches to reduce the amount of stress that was put on the body by remaining in the same position for that time period.

    Have a good sitting position
    A driver should ensure that he sits less and also that he sits better. But sitting less isn’t easy for professional frequent drivers. Drivers of heavy goods vehicles are obliged to observe the statutory rest hours, for which purpose their lorries are often equipped with a tachograph. However, this still means that they can drive for 4 ½ hours without interruption. Taking more breaks in order to stretch one’s legs often leads to major productivity losses or to very long working days. Therefore, a good sitting position in an ergonomic driver’s seat is a more feasible solution.

    Put your hands on the steering wheel
    The best position for your body while driving is to have your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Not only is this recommended for a safer position if airbags are deployed, this will eliminate the arms being kept in a raised position, which causes strain and pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back.

     

    Want to go all the way? Here’s a detailed list of how to create an ergonomic sitting position in a vehicle.

    1. Seat
      Depth: when you press the clutch pedal, your knee should be slightly bent. Your foot should also not be fully extended when pressing the pedal.
    2. Height
      Keep your eyes in the middle of the windscreen and below the rear-view mirror. Make sure that there is at least a fist’s width of space between your head and the roof.
    3. Leg support
      Make sure your thighs are supported as much as possible, but keep your knee joints free. There should be just about a fist’s width of space between your lower legs and the seat.
    4. Backrest
      Angle: the angle between your thighs and torso should be between 95-115°. Make sure you can rest your wrists on top of the steering wheel with a relaxed, fully stretched arm.
    5. Lower-back support
      It is important that your lower back is supported. Make sure the support is above your trouser belt.
    6. Headrest
      Set the top of your headrest at the height of the crown of your head, or slightly lower. This also applies to passengers. The distance between your head and the headrest should be about 5 centimeters (so don’t tip the chair too far back).
    7. Steering wheel
      Height: make sure you can stretch your arm out in front at shoulder height. The maximum height of the steering wheel should therefore be shoulder height.
      Distance: hold your steering wheel with your hands at the ‘a quarter to three’ position and relax your arms.
      In general: steer with both hands as often as possible. Hold the wheel with a relaxed grip, but never let it go.
    8. Mirrors 
      Rear-view mirror: set the left-hand side of the mirror in line with the left-hand side of the rear windscreen, so that you have the greatest possible field of vision through your rear windscreen.
      Side-mirror height: make sure you can see 1/3 sky and 2/3 road in your wing mirrors.
      Side-mirror angle: you should just be able to see the back of the side of the vehicle.
    9. Seatbelts
      Wear seatbelts at all times.
      Seatbelts should not cut into your neck or impede your arm movements.
      Seatbelts should not be twisted.
      Do not keep your glasses, a pen or a phone in your breast pocket.
      Wear your tie over the belt.
      Pregnant women: position the belt beneath your belly.
    10. Armrest
      Avoid raised shoulders or elbows.
      Keep your elbow below shoulder height (including your left arm!)
      Prevent an unbalanced posture, e.g. do not lean your elbow on the door.
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