We all know the dangers of driving, be it watching out for sudden hazards, ignoring distractions or avoiding a collision. But there are other things we should watch out for when getting behind the wheel, and one of them is how we sit.
When it comes to driving for a living, how you are sitting and the position of your seat can have a huge impact on your musculoskeletal health down the line.
Whether you’re a taxi driver, courier or sales rep, your vehicle is essentially your office, and as such, it should be treated with the same healthy and safety considerations.
Brian Crinion – director of Spectrum Optimise, an Irish company that offers a range of services to help promote better workplace environments – says employers have a duty of care to ensure their staff are ergonomically safe; whether those employees are in the office answering calls, out on the road delivering goods or making sales.
“Drivers are often neglected when it comes to ergonomic assessments, but their health and wellbeing is just as important as someone who is working in an office environment,” says the chartered physiotherapist and ergonomics expert.
“Drivers often have long shifts on the road and, if they are sitting incorrectly every day, in the short term it can cause discomfort, but if not addressed, can cause serious damage to the spine in the long run.”
He added: “Sitting in the wrong position can be taxing on a person mentally as well as physically. This is quite dangerous for those who drive for long periods of time, as driver fatigue is one of the top causes of vehicle collisions. It is, therefore, imperative that employers have an ergonomic assessment carried out to ensure that drivers have their seats adjusted correctly for their unique characteristics, posture, work practices and needs.”
Brian and his team at Spectrum Optimise have carried out over 8,000 evaluations for companies such as The Happy Pear, Collingwood Health, Allianz, and Pitney Bowes, to name a few.
While Brian recommends an ergonomics assessment for optimal health and wellbeing behind the wheel, there are a few checks employees can do themselves to ensure they are sitting safely in the driver’s seat.
See below for Brian’s top tips on how to check you are sitting right when driving:
- Raise the seat: Adjust the seat so your hips are in line with or slightly lower than your knees.
- Get support: Adjust the cushioned part you sit on (either pump it up or down), so that your thighs are fully supported. There should be a more even pressure along the thighs with a two to four finger breadth distance between the seat and the backs of the knees.
- Don’t recline: The back of the seat should provide continuous support along the length of your back, so avoid reclining the seat too far. Roll the seat back just enough so you are sitting at a slight angle, ensuring that your shoulders are behind your hips and not in line with them or ahead of them. The ideal angle is 104 degrees, but overall is should feel comfortable!
- Check the wheel: Adjust the steering wheel rearwards and downwards for easy reach. In terms of height, your chin should be in line with the top of the wheel. When reaching for the wheel, ensure there is a slight bend in your elbows, and the wheel should be a minimum of 10 inches away from the driver’s breastbone.
- Relax the upper body: Place hands at a nine and three o’clock position, this will allow your shoulders to relax and take pressure off your neck, especially important for long journeys. Ensure that your head is in a neutral position and you can see all your mirrors without straining your neck.