Ergonomics in the Driver’s Seat

WHAT IS ERGONOMICS?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, ergonomics is “the study of the problems of people in adjusting to their environment; the science that seeks to adapt work or working conditions to suit the worker.”

If you work in an office, a number of factors have probably already been considered to accommodate sitting at a computer desk all day, such as chair height, distance from the monitor and body posture. There are places beyond the workplace where people spend a great deal of time sitting. How does ergonomics translate to the driver’s seat? The most common complaints reported by drivers include low back pain, sore shoulders, stiff neck and foot cramps. Fortunately, there are a number of ergonomic adjustments you can make in your vehicle to reduce stress and strain on your body.

If you drive for a living, operate heavy equipment or even simply drive to and from work each day, consider the following driving ergonomics tips:

SEAT ADJUSTMENT

Driving-related back pain often refers back to the position of the driver’s seat. When in the driving position, you should be able to reach the steering wheel, pedals and the other pertinent car controls comfortably without having to stretch. Start by moving the seat all the way back to adjust the settings for your body:

  • Move the seat forward to enable you to comfortably depress the foot pedals all the way down with your knees bent while keeping your back against the seat back. This should aid in reducing foot cramps and back pain.
  • Adjust the headrest so it’s in the middle of your head. Keeping the head back and neck in a neutral position will ensure correct positioning and posture. Shoulders should rest somewhat behind the hips.
  • Next, recline the seat slightly back to decrease pressure on the discs in the lower back.
  • Bring the seat height up so that your hips are aligned with your knees. Add a cushion to the seat if too low. Ensure your seat isn’t adjusted so high, leave headroom. Slouching your head down or bending to the side causes neck problems.
  • Good lumbar support is an important factor to alleviate back pain. If the vehicle does not offer adequate support you can use a cushion behind the back. Comfortable support without pressure points or gaps between the spine and seat back.
  • Never sit on your wallet. The low back, hips and pelvis will be uneven & will ultimately cause back pain while driving.

POSTURE

Posture is another important element in successful ergonomics. Maintaining good posture eases the strain on your body. Make good posture a habit you paid attention to while standing, sitting or lying down. Always adjusted your seat settings and mirrors. If as the day goes on you slip into a bad position or slouch, the mirrors will be your cue to straighten up & readjust.

STEERING WHEEL POSITION

Although 10 and 2 is probably ingrained in your mind from your early days of driving, 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. Ensure that the steering wheel is adjusted so that it does not come into contact with the legs. Maintain an unobstructed view of the display panel gauges from the sitting position.

REST BREAKS

Just like in an office setting, breaks are required while driving too. The standard 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 your body by remaining in the same position for that time period. The body needs time to get the blood flowing to the muscles to engage after remaining sitting a long period of time. Be sure to practice good manual handling techniques when it’s time to move cargo or tools.

Adjust your seat, pedals, mirrors, seatbelt and steering wheel every time to ensure proper ergonomic position.

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