Ergonomics Behind the Wheel

    TORONTO, Feb. 26 /CNW/ - February 29, 2008 is International RSI Awareness
Day, a day devoted to acknowledging the cause of over 39,000 workplace
injuries in Ontario.(1) Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs), also known as
musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), are commonly associated with employees at
desk jobs, but affect people in all professions and walks of life. Risks of
developing MSDs are all around us, even in our car.
    Over 8.8 million drivers travel along Ontario roads.(2) Our roads are
filled with daily commuters, transport workers, people traveling to vacation
destinations, or running daily errands.
    Sitting in a moving vehicle can be hazardous to your health and can
contribute to the development of MSDs. Typical problems from frequent driving
include neck, back, and shoulder pain, cramps, poor circulation in the legs
and buttocks, and a long-term potential for degeneration of spinal discs and
disc herniation.
    Pain and injury is preventable. The first step is recognizing the risk
factors in your daily activities. The main risk factors for developing an MSD
include awkward postures, excessive force, vibration, and repetition or long
duration of exposure.

    To identify whether you are at risk, ask yourself the following

    -   Do you slouch when you drive?
    -   Does your low back get good support?
    -   Do you drive for two hours or more at a time?
    -   Do you stay in the very same position for long periods of time?
    -   Do you work in your vehicle?
    -   Do you have to bend and twist to lift things out of your vehicle?
    -   Do you have to lift heavy items out of your vehicle?
    -   Do you have to push or pull heavy items soon after driving?
    -   Is the vehicle maintenance, such as the suspension wheel conditions
        contributing to vibration?
    -   Is the seat designed to minimize the impact of vibration on your

    Individuals at the highest risk for developing a driving related MSD
include truck drivers, paramedics, heavy equipment operators, taxi and
limousine drivers, bus drivers, forklift operators, farmers, delivery/courier
people, traveling sales people, weekly cottage-goers, and commuters.(3)

    Simple tips to protect yourself against the development of MSDs include:

    -   Adjust your seat's lumbar support to fit your low back. If your
        vehicle isn't equipped with lumbar technology or you find it
        insufficient, use a small narrow cushion or rolled-up towel to help
        support your low back in a curved position.
    -   Tilt your seat's back rest to approximately 110 degrees. Tilting your
        seat too far forward may increase the strain on your low back;
        tilting it too far back could increase the strain on your shoulders.
    -   Avoid driving for more than two hours without a break. A five-minute
        rest may be all that you need to stand, stretch your muscles and
        refresh your mind.
    -   Ensure that your vehicle is properly maintained to minimize
    -   If you have to use a laptop or take notes in your vehicle in between
        stops, sit in the passenger seat where there is more room and you
        don't have to twist.
    -   Avoid lifting immediately after a long drive. Sitting causes the
        ligaments that support your spine to stretch and the discs in your
        back to move out of their optimal position. Wait a few minutes before
        trying to lift something to help reduce the chance of straining your

    Employees should be encouraged by their employers to report pain so that
possible MSDs can be addressed early to avoid more serious health problems.
Proper training and information to employees on proper lifting techniques and
ergonomics can be useful in preventing such pains and strains.
    Find out more about reducing the risk of MSDs in your workplace at

    Submitted by IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), a
not-for-profit organization operating in Ontario since 1917. Representing more
than 50,000 member firms and in excess of 1.5 million Ontario workers, IAPA is
Canada's leading workplace health and safety organization.

    (1) Source: Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB). Statistical
    Supplement to the Annual Report 2006. 2007.
    (2) Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Quick Facts,, October 4, 2007.
    (3) Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc., Ergonomics and
    Driving, 2005.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Meagan Parker, Communications
and PR Specialist, IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), Tel:
(905) 614-4272, ext. 2233, E-mail:

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