Distracted Driving- Fatigue- Whole-Body Vibrations
Distracted driving, while a legitimate safety concern, is fast becoming the latest “cause” for safety experts, the press, legislators and regulators to rally around. Scope of the Problem; The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 21% of police-reported crashes involve some form of driver inattention. In 2008, they have estimated that nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving distracted driving. It can be difficult to properly establish “cause” in distracted driving accidents, and the actual number may be much higher depending on how you interpret the data.
Distracted driving is any activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from their main duty of driving & increase the risk of a crash. There are three main types of driving distraction:
- Visual –90%-95% of all the information you receive while doing any activity is brought to you visually- through your eyes. Taking your eyes off the road is a major distraction.
- Manual – You feel the road through your hands, feet and seat to get a lot of the information for driving. Taking your hands off the wheel is a distraction.
- Cognitive –You use all of the information gathered and make informed decisions in everything we do. Taking your mind off what you are doing, driving, is a distraction.
As we are driving, working, or whatever- we
- search for things that might be a problem to us
- identify the problem
- predict the possible outcomes
- decide what we are going to do to get out of the problem
- execute the process
Studies show that in some situations, a driver will search, identify, predict, decide, and execute the process up to 200 times per mile.
Curves in the road, road narrowing, traffic in every direction, animals, kids, driveways, side roads, weather….. You are or should be continually assessing your situation for anything that may pose to be a future problem.
There are some very basic causes of fatigue. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is often compounded by poor diet, being overweight, lack of exercise, and consuming alcohol. In our daily lives it is sometimes difficult to eat a balanced diet, get adequate exercise, or even have restful sleep. A long road trip, or driving for a living, can create even greater obstacles to our well-being. This is why we need to take an active part in prevention when it comes to driving in a tired or distracted state.
One thing that is never mentioned as a stressor in our life is- Whole-Body Vibrations.
We are more tired at the end of our shift than at the beginning. Why?
You may be one that exerts a lot of energy throughout the day, then that’s a good reason to be tired. Driving a truck, front-end loader or a bull dozer on the other hand, doesn’t take super strength or a lot of energy. It takes finesse, a lot of hand-eye coordination, and intelligence to properly operate these machines. However, you are exhausted at the end of the day.
Vibrations, whether it is in one muscle or your entire body, cause you stress and strain. Stress and Strain causes fatigued bodies, and ultimately causing fatigued minds.
Operating any of our equipment creates vibrations, from the engine, to chuck holes, and un-even terrain. It is the total of all vibrations that our bodies endure on a daily basis, and most of the time when we are sitting for extended periods.
Ask yourself how long you sit in your truck, and other equipment. How many times do you climb down and take a break?
Key to eliminate this source of stress is simple. Reduce the exposure to vibrations by taking breaks and walk around for a minute or so. Give your muscles a minute to recondition, to calm down. The longer you’re in one spot feeling vibrations the longer the break needs to be.
When you fatigue your muscles and become tired, you fatigue your mind. When your mind is fatigued you can’t search, identify, predict, decide, and execute the processes of driving “up to 200 times per mile”. Thus, you become a risky driver/ operator.
Last thing I want to leave you with is to exercise and be in shape for your work. It can be as easy as starting your day with a few simple stretches-
- Hands- Forwards and backwards for 10 seconds each
- Shoulders- Forwards, back and over your head for 10 seconds each
- Neck- Forward, back and side to side 10 seconds.
- Back- Forward, back and side to side 10 seconds.
- Calves- Leaning with your hands on a wall, step back and stretch the calf.
- Thighs- Lift and hold your foot behind you as close to your rear as you can.
This at least gets the muscles warmed up and motivated for the day. After that, be sure and step down off of your equipment at least once per hour to eliminate the vibrations for a minute or two. Stay safe my friends.
HEAT STRESS- DEALING WITH SOUTHEAST TEXAS HEAT
We were just complaining that it was too cold a couple of months ago, now it’s hot, real hot. We deal with it each and every year. There are cooler climates south of us and there are warmer climates north of us. What makes it so dangerously hot here is our evil enemy- Relative Humidity. The gulf breezes suck moisture from the coast and soak our air, which actually becomes very important when trying to work outside and stay cool.
The human body is an engineering phenomenon, it constantly works at self-preservation and wants to stay at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees. Your circulatory system is in charge of that job and acts similar to a radiator. When you’re idle, sitting behind your desk, or watching TV, blood is traveling around your entire body in equal amounts so everything is happy. When you’re activity increases, muscle contractions create heat, and the body responds to this by opening up the blood vessels near the skin in order to dissipate that added heat and cool itself down. If that is not enough cooling, the body kicks in the sweat glands to add to the cooling effect. This is where the evil relative humidity comes into play. In low humidity, the sweat on your skin is evaporated at such a rate that it is very efficient in cooling you down. However, in our high humidity climate, there is not enough room in the air for our sweat to evaporate into and the cooling effect is less effective. So, in SE Texas we sweat, and sweat a lot and in turn, we’ve got to drink a lot of water or sports drinks to aid in this process of cooling down.
All workers who are in hot environments (outside, near a furnace, in a kitchen…) should recognize the initial signs of heat stress in themselves. These symptoms usually start off with dizziness and headache and may progress into nausea and vomiting. As the body becomes more dehydrated thus a higher than normal temperature, it will move more blood to the vital organs to preserve them and decrease the amount of blood traveling to the skin for cooling. Next is a rapid rise in temperature leading to an altered mental status and possibly seizures, a condition commonly known as HEAT STROKE.
Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency and can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles and ultimately lead to death. It occurs when the body is unable to sweat and the core temperature rises and effectively cooks the internal organs. Signs include;
- High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
- Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
- Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
- Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
- Headache. Your head may throb.
Prevention- Keep an eye on the heat advisories, drink plenty of water, work in the cooler hours if possible, DRINK PLENTY OF WATER, take frequent rest breaks in shaded cooler areas, drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and heavy meals and drink plenty of water.