Archive for category health

Well, Well, Well, Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is Back

Image source; National Association for Health and Fitness

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month takes place every year in May to promote health and fitness in the workplace. When workers practice healthy lifestyles that include a nutritious diet and physical exercise, they lower their risk of injury and illness and increase productivity. For truck drivers, health and fitness are vital to safe vehicle operation and overall job performance. Healthy and fit drivers benefit trucking companies because they are in better physical and mental condition and are more likely to maintain CDL medical requirements.

Challenges for Truck Drivers

Maintaining a healthy diet and physical exercise routine can be challenging for truck drivers. Although truck drivers are always on the go, food options on travel routes often reflect food desert conditions. Truck stops, rest areas, convenience stores, break room vending machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer unhealthy processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Exercise is especially important for long-haul drivers who travel for extended distances without much physical activity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that truck drivers lack adequate exercise and many see themselves as being out of shape. Poor diets and lack of exercise lead long-haul truck drivers to have obesity and morbid obesity two times higher than other workers.

Research shows that obesity negatively impacts job performance and can cause sleep apnea, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent RAND study reports that nearly 60 percent of the United States population has one or more of these chronic conditions. Treatment costs for these conditions account for 90% of national health care expenditures. Another study found that combined annual costs of covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims for normal weight employees averaged $3,830 while costing $8,067 for morbidly obese employees.  

The Road to Better Health

A recent national survey of over 20,000 employees found that healthy workers were 16 to 27 percent less likely to have recent absenteeism. The research showed that higher job performance was more likely for: 

  • 25 percent of workers who ate healthy the entire day.
  • 20 percent of workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week.
  • 15 percent for workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week.

Being on the road doesn’t mean that truck drivers have no chances to improve their health. Instead, it means that they must adapt to their mobile workplace by doing things a little differently than most other employees who work in one location. The tips below can help steer drivers in the right direction, but it is always important to consult a health care provider before making any dietary or lifestyle (exercise) changes, to make sure you can safely do so.

  • Shop at grocery stores and pack your own meals, snacks, and drinks instead of stopping at truck stops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, and low in carbs, preservatives, and sodium.
  • Smaller portions will help you lose weight.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day to help steady your blood sugar level.
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  • Sleep in a quiet, comfortable place, and avoid large meals, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and television before going to sleep.
  • Find a safe area near your truck to take a walk, stretch, do push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or jump rope.
  • Locate truck stops that provide food and services that support a healthy lifestyle for truck drivers.
  • Quit using tobacco products, stimulants, and alcohol.

Click on the following links for more information and resources:

Keep Trucking Safe.org – Truck Driver Health Issues

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Truck Driver Health

NIOSH – Total Worker Health Programs Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Driving Healthy.org

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Stress Less, Feel Better

Image of person with his head up high and eyes close with a title "Stop Stress In Its Tracks"
Image source: American Heart Association

Driving a truck requires being ready to take quick, sensible action at any time. Responding wrongly to a traffic hazard or other dangerous work condition can end in serious injuries, death, and costly damage. But maintaining a constant high level of readiness can be a challenge when workplace stress diminishes a driver’s mental and physical health. Medical research increasingly shows that chronic stress can raise the risk of mental and physical health problems. Prolonged stress can cause a driver to become a risk to themselves, their co-workers, and other motorists. Trucking companies can reduce workplace stress by including stress management and training in their safety programs.

Stress Factors and Symptoms for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers experience stress from several sources. Recent studies have listed the following factors as leading stressors among truck drivers:

  • Long routes and social isolation
  • Abrupt schedule changes, rotating schedules, long detention times, and tight deadlines
  • Compliance with hours of service regulations
  • Traffic delays and adverse road and weather conditions
  • Road rage and fear of violence
  • Vehicle noise, equipment vibration, and temperature extremes
  • Transporting hazardous freight

Signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety, headaches, and depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • Social withdrawal
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Workplace violence
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Stress Management for Driver Safety, Health, and Wellness

A trucking company can reduce workplace stress by including a stress management and training plan in their safety program. Having such a plan can help employees identify workplace stress, its sources, and its effects on their safety, health, and wellness. It should also provide stress prevention and control methods for employees. Effective workplace stress management can improve driver health and wellness, equipment operation, attendance, productivity, employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction.

Stress management methods include:

  • Improving work schedules and driving routes that are more compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job
  • Providing health, vacation, and retirement benefits
  • Balancing work and family life
  • Teamwork
  • Regular medical exams
  • Taking breaks and getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy food and staying hydrated
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Preventing job hazards
  • Having a vehicle maintenance program
  • Arranging safe lodging when needed
  • Providing ergonomic equipment and well-fitting PPE

Plan a stress management plan for your safety program using these resources:

Keep Trucking Safe:

Dealing with Stress at Work

Got Stress? poster

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

Stress. . .at Work

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Workplace Stress Management

American Heart Association

Stress Management

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Stay Upbeat with a Healthy Heart

American Heart Month takes place each February to raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease. Since its first observance in 1964, improvements in medical research, treatment, and public education have greatly helped people live longer and healthier lives. But heart disease is still America’s top health threat and killer, claiming around 2,300 lives each day.

Heart disease is a major health problem among truck drivers. Research shows that truck drivers have higher heart disease rates than other workers. Truck drivers also have a higher prevalence of heart disease risk factors, including obesity, hypertension, and smoking. These risks stem from lifestyle and occupational factors such as irregular schedules, long hours, physical inactivity, high stress, and limited healthy food options on the road. Age, gender, family history, and social factors can also influence a person’s risk of heart disease. People with poor heart health are also at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Heart Disease and Trucking Safety

Heart disease can interfere with the ability to control and drive a truck safely. In a sample of 182 fatal truck collisions, the National Transportation Safety Board attributed 10% of collisions to medical problems, with 90% of them being heart-related. A recent study also shows a link between heart disease risk and crashes among truck drivers. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, a result of high blood pressure and plaque buildup in the arteries. The buildup can create blood clots that block blood flow to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. Truck drivers who feel a heart attack approaching should immediately pull over to a safe area and call 911. Warning signs of a heart attack can differ between men and women. While chest pain and discomfort are most common to both, women are more likely to have the following symptoms:

  • Back and/or jaw pain.
  • Nausea, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and dizziness.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Indigestion and abdominal pain.
  • Pain and discomfort when resting or sleeping.

As it raises safety risks, heart disease can potentially disqualify a truck driver from holding a commercial driver license. Don’t wait to be disqualified or for a serious incident to occur before taking your heart health seriously. In addition to following your doctor’s orders, consider adopting these healthy habits to prevent heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Manage stress.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Get enough sleep.

Companies can help their drivers beat heart disease by enhancing their safety programs to include:

  • Training on healthy diets, smoking cessation, exercise breaks, and stress management.
  • Providing fitness facilities at your terminals, locating truck stops that have them, and offering gym memberships.
  • Teach drivers about power naps and sleep hygiene.
  • Have incentive programs that motivate and reward healthy lifestyles.
  • Provide health insurance.
  • Allow time in driving schedules for medical visits.



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May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

Image source: National Association for Health and Fitness

Global Employee Health & Fitness Month is a worldwide observance to promote health and fitness in the workplace. Practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and physical exercise is key to avoiding injury and illness and being a dynamic, high-performing worker. For truck drivers, health and fitness are vital to safely operating a vehicle and performing other related job tasks. Healthy and fit drivers benefit business operations because they feel physically better, have higher mental alertness, and comply with CDL medical requirements.

Health and Fitness Challenges for Truck Drivers

Finding opportunities to get nutritious foods and regular exercise can be a challenge for truck drivers. Although truck drivers are always on the go, their access to healthy food options on pick-up and delivery routes often reflects food desert conditions. Truck stops, rest areas, convenience stores, break room vending machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer unhealthy processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Exercise is especially important for long-haul drivers who travel for extended periods without much physical activity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that truck drivers lack adequate exercise and many see themselves as being out of shape. As a result of eating poorly and not exercising, obesity and morbid obesity are twice as high for long-haul truck drivers than other workers.

Research shows that obesity negatively impacts job performance and can cause sleep apnea, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent RAND study reports that nearly 60 percent of the United States population has one or more of these chronic conditions. Treatment costs for these conditions account for 90% of national health care expenditures. Another study found that combined annual costs of covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims for normal weight employees averaged $3,830 while costing $8,067 for morbidly obese employees.  

Taking the Onramp to Better Health

A recent nationwide survey of over 20,000 employees found that healthy workers were 16 to 27 percent less likely to have recent absenteeism. It also indicated that higher job performance was more likely for: 

  • 25 percent of workers who ate healthy the entire day.
  • 20 percent of workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week.
  • 15 percent for workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week.

Being on the road doesn’t mean that truck drivers have no chances to improve their health. Instead, it means that they must adapt to their mobile workplace by doing things a little differently than most employees who always work in the same place. The tips below can help steer drivers in the right direction, but it is always important to consult a health care provider before making any dietary or lifestyle (exercise) changes, to make sure you can safely do so.

  • Shop at grocery stores and pack your own meals, snacks, and drinks instead of stopping at truck stops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, and low in carbs, preservatives, and sodium.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day to help lose weight and steady your blood sugar level.
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  • Sleep in a quiet, comfortable place, and avoid large meals, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and television before going to sleep.
  • Find a safe area near your truck to take a walk, stretch, do push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or jump rope.
  • Locate truck stops that provide food and services that support a healthy lifestyle for truck drivers.
  • Quit using tobacco products, stimulants, and alcohol.

Click on the following links for more information and resources:

Keep Trucking Safe.org – Truck Driver Health Issues

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Truck Driver Health

NIOSH – Total Worker Health Programs

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Driving Healthy.org

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You Can’t Touch This

Touching germ-laden surfaces is another way that people can catch the COVID-19 virus. That’s why it’s important to keep commonly touched surfaces clean and disinfected. In addition to social distancing, handwashing, and covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is a key way to stop virus germs from entering your body. Gravity causes airborne germs from an infected person’s uncovered cough or sneeze to land somewhere, even on a surface that you touch. Germs can get into your vehicle and on your equipment, and they can stay viable there for hours or even days. If you are not social distancing at home, you have a higher risk of getting sick by touching a contaminated surface. Taking steps to clean and disinfect surfaces in your immediate work area can help prevent future grief if germs are present. The following tips show you how to clean and disinfect surfaces to protect your health.

Click on the following links from Keep Trucking Safe for more COVID-19 prevention materials:

Covering Your Cough and Sneeze

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

Handwashing: Your Protection Against Infection

Social Distancing

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Don’t Let a Cough or Sneeze Spread Disease

Usually, they go unnoticed, but in these trying times of COVID-19, a simple cough or sneeze can be fatal. While a cough or sneeze are just the body’s natural responses to keeping its airways clear, they can also spread germs that can cause disease. When germs become airborne, they can be inhaled by other people or settle on surfaces that people touch with their hands. As the daily news reports swelling numbers of infections and deaths, we know with certainty that COVID-19 is highly contagious and easily spread. As a result, we all have to work together to protect our health in this unprecedented moment. Following simple hygiene tips like covering your cough or sneeze, washing your hands often, and social distancing can go a long way to slowing the spread of disease and keeping you and other people around you safe and healthy. The tip sheet below shows you the proper way to cover your cough and sneeze. It is a simple form of disease prevention, but one that requires a little knowledge and preparation to make sure it’s effective.       

Click on the following links from Keep Trucking Safe for more COVID-19 prevention materials:

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

Handwashing: Your Protection Against Infection

Social Distancing

 

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Handwashing: Your Protection Against Infection

Safety and health are in your hands and at your fingertips. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stress that frequent handwashing is the best first-line personal protection against catching and spreading COVID-19. Truck drivers certainly have good reason to take notice of the CDC’s advice. Loading freight, making deliveries, fueling, eating in public areas, and using public restrooms are just some of the ways that truck drivers touch objects covered with germs that cause disease. Most times you never know who touched the fuel pump, ATM keypad, or cooler door before you did or how often those surfaces get disinfected. So why take a chance on your health when you can simply wash your hands to avoid sickness? But proper handwashing requires following some basic guidelines such as when to use soap versus hand sanitizer, and whether you should wash your hands before, during or after certain tasks and activities. Use this tip sheet, Handwashing: Your Protection Against Infection to brush up on the skills and knowledge needed to make hand hygiene one of your best defenses against COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Stress Management for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers must always be ready to take quick, sensible action at any time behind the wheel. A wrong response to an emerging traffic hazard or other dangerous work condition can cause serious injuries, death, and costly damage. But keeping a constant high level of readiness can be a challenge when job stress diminishes a driver’s mental and physical health. As the coronavirus outbreak interrupts established work routines and expectations, it can quickly increase previous levels of job stress among truck drivers.  

Medical research shows that chronic job stress under normal everyday driving conditions can raise the risk of psychological, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal health problems. It can also worsen preexisting medical problems. A driver having these problems may pose a risk to themselves, their co-workers, and other motorists. The risk may grow if fear and anxiety caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) intensify job stress.

Stress Management for Driver Safety, Health, and Wellness

One of the best ways for trucking companies to help drivers cope with job stress at any time is to have a stress management and training plan in their safety programs. Following such a plan can help employees identify workplace stress, its sources, and its effects on their safety, health, and wellness. It should also show management and employees how to prevent and control stress. Effective job stress management can improve employee health and wellness, equipment operation, attendance, productivity, employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction.

Use the attached tip sheet and following resources to help you get started.

Keep Trucking Safe:

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

Dealing with Stress at Work

Got Stress? poster

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

Stress. . .at Work

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Workplace Health and Job Stress Management

 

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Social Distancing and Other Coronavirus Prevention Tips for Truck Drivers

As the COVID-19 outbreak grows, the Keep Trucking Safe team wants to stay connected with truck drivers, sharing virus prevention tips and other information to keep them safe and healthy on the road. Being on the road during the outbreak puts drivers at higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease. Sharing accurate prevention information is one of the best ways to combat the virus. We will be posting free educational tip sheets on hand washing, cough etiquette, stress management, mental health, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and other everyday measures to prevent the disease and its effects from spreading among truck drivers. While you are still working hard to transport goods during this trying time, we’ll be working to help get you the best prevention information to keep you safe.       

Our first tip sheet shows some ways that social distancing can help you stay connected with your co-workers and customers while avoiding close contact with them. Although truck drivers are less likely to work from home to avoid the virus, there are still several social distancing measures you can use on the road. Please visit our Twitter site and stay tuned for more information on other topics coming out soon.

 

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COVID-19 Prevention Steps for Truck Drivers

More employees are working from home in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. However, as mobile workers, truck drivers are not likely to be among them. As a result, drivers should be extra cautious to avoid sickness on the road. Drivers have a higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease if they make frequent stops and have face-to-face interactions with many different people. Risk is especially higher for older drivers and those having pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and lung disease. Truck stops, rest areas, fueling stations, terminal yards, and other trucking-related places should post disease prevention information and take preventative sanitary measures to keep drivers safe.

Companies should plan, prepare and respond using a strategy that encourages sick employees to stay home, separates sick employees, emphasizes respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene, performs routine environmental cleaning, advises employees before traveling to affected areas, and provides appropriate personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and tissue paper. Have a list of area medical facilities and phone numbers ready to give to your drivers. Make sure your drivers’ emergency contact information is up-to-date and be prepared to assist and support them and their loved ones if they get sick.   

There currently are no vaccines for the virus and no one is immune. Symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you feel that you are sick, do not go to work, stay away from other people, call your doctor immediately, and tell your employer.

If you must be on the road, use the following tips* to protect yourself against COVID-19 and to prevent its spread.

Steps to protect yourself:

Clean your hands often and after each stop

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Keeping individuals at least 6 feet apart is ideal based on what is known about COVID-19. If this is not feasible, efforts should be made to keep individuals as far apart as is practical.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Steps to protect others:

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often, after each delivery and if you are slip seating. This includes steering wheels, seats, dashboard, shifter knobs, grab handles, CB microphones, cell phones, ELD screens and buttons, keys, clipboards, tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, cups, desks, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

* Tips adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visit Keep Trucking Safe for more safety and health information and training resources for truck drivers.

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