Do me a favor: Do you have a four-foot step ladder somewhere? Go get it, take it out to your driveway, or the sidewalk. Someplace hard. Asphalt, concrete. Climb up and stand on the very top step (the one you’re not supposed to stand on), take a look around, then jump off.
I’m kidding. Don’t actually do that.
However, please do think about it. It doesn’t actually make sense. In fact, it’s completely counterintuitive. It’s a stupid thing to do, even. Why would you jump off of a step ladder? It’s designed to be ascended and descended using the steps. Jumping off is a total waste of perfectly good ergonomics and inherently dangerous to your physical well-being.
All this said, in our time working with people who drive trucks, this is a problem we see. Over. And over. And over again. I’m not going to sit here punching away at my keyboard and tell you, in any way, that truck drivers have an easy time doing anything. Even the simple task of sitting behind the wheel has profound physical challenges. These folks spend an extraordinary amount of time at work. They would spend even more if there weren’t labor laws preventing them from doing it. I could create a podcast dedicated to injury prevention truck drivers and we could run for weeks; it’d be a big hit.
However, I’m not going to do that. In this blog, I only want to talk about the physical risks associated with a specific task that truck drivers do thousands of times over the course of their careers:
Getting in and out of the cab of a truck.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
Remember the four-foot ladder? The thing you’re not supposed to jump off of? And jumping off? The thing that, as you stand aloft, forty-eight inches above terra firma, your prefrontal cortex sends urgent messages to your endocrine system to implore you to not actually do? Right.
Fun fact: Four feet is the average height that the cab floor of a combination vehicle sits above the ground. You would be ASTONISHED at how many injuries we see that occur when someone takes a shortcut and jumps out of the cab when they could simply use the steps.
Even using the steps can be dangerous. We broke down the numbers and calculated this stunning statistic: The cab of the truck being four feet high, and any driver on any given day getting in and out of the cab 12-16 times (a deeply conservative estimate), means that in a year, that driver will climb 16,640 feet. This height is roughly TWO THOUSAND FEET higher than Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower forty-eight states. Most anecdotal feedback we get from drivers puts those numbers way higher than that. By their estimate, most of them are doing twice the workload which puts the height they climb in a year much closer to the equivalent of Mt. Everest, just under 30,000 feet.
With that kind of workload, drivers encounter a ton of overuse injuries as well as catastrophic injuries when drivers are in weak body positions. However, that’s assuming the driver is at least trying to use the available ergonomic tools (steps, handles, etc.). We can’t help you move in stronger positions if you’re skipping the movement itself, which is, essentially, what jumping from the cab is.
FREE FALLING TOWARDS AN INJURY
Consider the physics: The Washington State Department of Labor and Industry crunched the numbers and came up with a sobering scientific conclusion on the impact of one individual jumping down from the cab once. Goes something like this:
Jumping from the cab of a tractor unit can create an impact force of 5 to 7 times your body weight. So if you weigh 200 lb. (91 kg) the impact force of jumping from the cab is almost 1500 lb. (680 kg). Compare that with using correct 3-point contact and slowly stepping down from the lower step which only creates an impact force of 1 to 1.5 times your body weight.
1,500 pounds? That’s how much a horse weighs. There are airplanes that weigh 1,500 pounds. That’s nuts. Doing that once is too much. Now think about that stat multiplied by 14-30 times a day?
Moreover, I assure you, you are not in enough of a hurry that you need to leap out of your truck. Unless you’re being chased, then it’s okay. Maybe. If you’re not being chased, please, please, please. Please PLEASE please please...take the stairs. You can take every precaution: Stretch, be mindful of moving well, take your Flintstones vitamins in the morning, but all of that mindfulness is moot the second you ignore the safety features and jump. Once you do that, there’s nothing I can do to help you.
Wondering how you can prevent workplace injuries in your fleet? Check out: 5 Tips for Reducing the Most Common Fleet Worker Injuries.
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