School bus drivers face a host of ergonomic hazards that can add up to serious trouble. For instance:
- Driving a bus is, for the most part, sedentary. Prolonged sitting puts an enormous strain on the disks of the spine--they become compressed and are deprived of nutrients and oxygen.
- Drivers are exposed to whole body vibration, which shakes and strains the disks of the spine.
- Seats on school buses are poorly designed and do not provide adequate support.
- Controls on school buses often require the driver to make strenuous movements to operate.
- Design of the controls requires excessive twisting of the upper body and head.
- Manually transferring children with disabilities to and from buses and vans places additional stress on the lower back, shoulders and neck.
The most prevalent musculoskeletal complaint of bus drivers is chronic lower back pain caused by prolonged sitting, vibration, and/or lifting disabled students. Studies of bus drivers have shown that up to 50 percent of them complain of pain, and that lower back pain starts early in a bus driver's career. This pain is a sign that the driver is at risk of developing serious disk problems.
Other musculoskeletal problems also can follow or appear on their own.
- Sciatica. An intense shooting pain from the lower spine down the leg caused by lower back disk compression of a nerve. Poor seats that aren’t easily adjustable can add to the risk of sciatica. Women drivers are at risk for this ailment because seats are designed for men.
- Neck and Shoulder Injuries. Neck and shoulder pain also are a result of forceful handling of controls and excessive twisting of neck and shoulders during driving.
- Circulatory Problems. Circulation problems may develop in legs and hands.
HEALTHY HINTS FOR BUS DRIVERS
The AFT-PSRP Department can provide further information on ergonomics and preventive programs through the AFT-PSRP Occupational Safety and Health Program at 202-393-5674.