Equipment Operators and Truck Drivers are an essential part of any construction team. Even though these people tend to spend much more time sitting down, they often are the ones who present to my office with Low Back Pain. Not only does sitting for extended periods lead to Low Back Pain, as in Office Workers, Operators and Drivers also experience constant vibration. This vibration combined with prolonged sitting is what makes operating heavy machinery worse than sitting at a desk.
First of all, maintaining good sitting posture will help prevent Low Back Pain associated with this type of work. Having an adjustable seat with suspension to minimize vibration, and properly placed controls is important. However, these things are both out of the control of the worker and often not cost effective to change.
Here are a couple quick and inexpensive tips to help improve your posture.
1.) Add Lumbar Support
Posture supports can be purchased at most Pharmacies and Big Box Stores. Ideally, the Low Back support should be adjustable to accommodate different body types and preferences
2.) Use a Seat Cover
The seats in Construction Equipment are commonly made of non-breathable materials such as synthetic leather. The problem with using this type of material is that they allow you to slip forward, which promotes poor posture. A breathable, non-slip material will prevent this and make it easier to keep your low back against your back rest.
3.) Reach with your arm, don’t lean.
While concentrating at the task at hand, it is easy to start leaning over towards the levers or gear shift so they are closer. Leaning to one side for extended periods, especially when combined with vibration, can be damaging to your spine. Sit up straight so that the centre of your chest is directly above the centre of your seat.
As mentioned above, vibration adds a unique problem for equipment operators. A certain amount of vibration is unavoidable; however there are a few things than can be done to minimize it.
1.) Regular Maintenance
Equipment maintenance and driving surface conditions can contribute to the amount of vibration experienced by the driver. Ensure equipment is well maintained and haul roads are also maintained. Also, particularly rough areas should have signage so that drivers can adjust their speed.
2.) Operator Behaviour
Techniques such as reducing driving speed and taking rest pauses throughout the day can minimize vibration exposure. A recent document published by the Alberta Government in 2008 suggests rest breaks of 10-15 minutes per 2 hours of exposure
These strategies can help to prevent injury. If you already have Low Back Pain, you should consult a licensed Chiropractor for treatment and advice.
Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC
Back Home Chiropractic, Goulds, NL