Archive for September, 2013

What would you do to keep an experienced driver for ten more years?

By Jena Williams


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the results of a study: Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years – United States, 2003-2010. The study found that on-the-job highway transportation death rates increased substantially at age 65, especially in transportation and warehousing industries and in transportation and material moving occupations.

It might seem that the finding of this study is, well, obvious. To be blunt, we tend to expect older workers to die more. But I would caution you to dig a little deeper because I think there is some important information to be gleaned here.

Consider that in the general population, these types of deaths only begin to increase substantially at age 75 years.  Why would deaths increase a decade earlier for workers?

There are many possible reasons and theories for this. I’ll present mine here and hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

The editor recommends interventions to benefit older drivers. (I would argue that these interventions would actually benefit all drivers!) The first is that we need to do a better job of selecting and adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers.

There are many other recommendations as well, such as less driving, less nighttime driving, etc., but I would like to explore the idea of adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers a little more.

Consider that before most people buy a personal vehicle, they sit in it and take it for test drive. Generally, people don’t buy a vehicle that isn’t comfortable to them. Unfortunately, comfort may not be a priority when many companies purchase their vehicles. Instead fuel economy, aerodynamics, and cost take the forefront. Plus, a company’s workforce comes in all shapes and sizes, so initially tailoring vehicles may seem nearly impossible.

One might argue that physical comfort doesn’t really have anything to do with crash-related deaths, but I would disagree. Fatigue is fatigue, whether brought on by long hours or awkward postures. It is still worth considering.

As the article states and we already know, “…older workers bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace…” I think we can agree that keeping an experienced worker for an additional ten years is valuable in a market with a declining labor pool.

What kind of investment are you willing to make in a skilled worker to keep them around for another ten years?  Would you improve the stairs into the cab? Would you add or improve handholds? Would you improve adjustability in the seat? Would you improve the location of the steering wheel? All of these can be associated with excess strain and fatigue on the body, potentially increasing crash risk.

And one more question, would you ask them what they need to make their job safer and easier?

These are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Link to full report:

And for drivers – always wear your seatbelt. Always.

We’ve lost another dedicated driver

By Jena Williams

A truck driver from Olympia died yesterday. Please keep his family, friends and company in your thoughts today.

Here’s a link for more information:

Is safe lifting an oxymoron?

By Jena Williams

Most ergonomists will probably agree that it is. You see, there is no guaranteed safe weight to lift.

There are so many factors involved in each scenario:

  • Weight of object.
  • Size of object.
  • Shape of object.
  • Starting point of lift (ground, waist, shoulder, over-head etc.)
  • Ending point of lift (ground, waist, shoulder, over-head.)
  • Body positioning.
  • Strength of human.
  • Health of human.
  • Size of human.
  • Stability of ground surface.
  • Repetition of lift.
  • Daily workload strain on body.
  • Previous day’s workload strain on body.

I could go on.

As imperfect as the science in regard to lifting is, there are some tools that can help make lifting safer. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Oregon OSHA teamed up to develop this app to guide lift planning and training. It’s a great demonstration of the various elements that impact strain on your body.

Whenever possible, reduce the need to lift and carry by using mechanical devices such as hand trucks to move materials. Items that are moved often should be stored a height that is easy to grab, such as at waist level, and kept as close to the destination as possible.

Also position your body as close to the object as possible. The combination of reaching and lifting adds considerable force to the lift.

Can you see the ground when you are carrying? If not, walk the path without the object to make sure it’s clear of debris or other obstacles.

Have you developed any work-arounds to minimize or eliminate lifts at your company? Please share your insight in the comments below.

Link to app:

Drivers – We appreciate you!

By Jena Williams

This year, the National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is September 15-21. Even though we appreciate those “who bring it” all year, many companies are taking the opportunity this week to host special events to celebrate their drivers.

Will you be in Yakima, Washington this week? If so, be sure to stop in at the Gearjammer Truck Plaza*on Thursday the 19th for an event to celebrate drivers. They’ll be giving away burgers and prizes!

Many people don’t take the time to think about all the truck drivers out there whose job it is to bring us all we need in our daily lives. Truck drivers work much longer hours than most people, battle all kinds of weather on the roads and are hypervigilant drivers to protect those of us willing to risk our lives cutting them off in traffic. In the winter, they put tire chains on and off, sometimes multiple times a day, as they go over and back across the mountain passes. They are dedicated to doing good work and we truly appreciate them.

Do you have a story to tell about an awesome truck driver or trucking company? Please share it with us in the comments section. Employers – here’s your opportunity to brag about your drivers. We know you’ve got stories to tell.

Good stuff. Trucks Bring it. (Trucks driven by drivers!)

If you are not a driver, thank a driver. And give him/her a little extra space on the roads. Check out the No-Zone for more info:

Here’s a little something from to, well….Keep you safe!

*Gear Jammer Truck Plaza
2310 Rudkin Road
Yakima, Washington 98903-1609

Are you looking to spice up your safety training?

By Jena Williams

What is every safety director’s dream?  Could it be to have an entire workforce of truck drivers that always have safety at the forefront of their minds? Here’s your chance to make that dream a reality. If you are a Washington trucking company, you have the opportunity send a driver to a free training that will teach him/her to encourage other drivers to work safely.

Safety directors have told me that they begin to feel like their workers actually tune out the sound of their voice. It’s true! They speculate that maybe if someone else delivered the training that it might get the workers attention. Well, who are they more likely to listen to? You, or one of their colleagues?

This is where Safer Drivers – Workers Training Workers steps in. And the best part – aside from the time to train, it’s FREE! This training is paid for by a grant from the Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), so it is free to any company in the state of Washington that wants to use it. The topics are Driver Safety and Health and understanding the CSA components.

According to L&I’s Caprice Catalano:

As the SHIP grant manager for this project, I attended one of the 2-day trainings scheduled for this project… Most of the attendees were safety professionals and drivers with at least 15 to 20 years’ experience. While at the beginning of the class there was a typical type of resistance to the “need” to be there… as the class progressed I started to see changes. By the second day I was witnessing an actual safety culture change.

The classes are two days long and presented at various locations throughout the state. Most companies send a safety rep and a regular employee or two. I know you are thinking “time is money, when a driver isn’t driving,” but I encourage you to consider the enormous cost savings if this training prevents even one injury at your company. Imagine the savings over time if it prevents many.

The remaining trainings are:

November 12-13, in Spokane
November 20-21, in Tukwila
December 4-5, in Tacoma
December 11-12, in Everett
December 18-19, in Everett

All classes are 7:00am-3:30pm; locations are yet to be determined.  Contact Tom George for more information or to schedule your class at (425) 306-9870 or The website is:

As an alternative, if you’d like to educate your entire workforce (20-25 participants), the Teamsters Trainers have developed two half-day sessions where they will come out to your company to train on the materials. Some companies have opted for these trainings on Saturdays.

And let me just address a common concern right here – no worries if you are not a union shop! This training is paid for by a grant from L&I and is for all Washington trucking companies. There will be no “plugs” for union membership or anything of the sort. The Teamsters Trainers are just really great at training and won a grant to keep all drivers safe.

This really is a great opportunity to add spice to your safety training. Plus, you’ll get a new spin on very cool safety training materials produced by TIRES! Nah, I’m not completely impartial…