Do you know the no-zone?

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

America’s roadways can be hazardous places. Our treks to and from work, the grocery store and the kids’ soccer practice can turn tragic on icy or wet roads, or when we encounter a distracted or intoxicated driver.

In fact, the National Safety Council reported a 6 percent jump in vehicle fatalities in 2016 following a 7 percent increase in 2015. While we already understand the need for caution and patience behind the wheel, these stats are useful reminders that can help quell complacency every time we pull out of the driveway.

But have you considered the added danger to those who spend their entire workday on the road; those whose office is the cab of a tractor trailer? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports transportation incidents lead to the most fatal work injuries in 2015, accounting for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries. Many of those incidents involve truck drivers hauling and delivering the goods we use every day. They must take every precaution because the very nature of their work places them at a high risk of injury or worse as they go about their work day.

One thing we can do to help keep them, and all of us who share the road with them, safe is by taking a little walk in their shoes – or literally a sit in their seat. Have you considered that the view from the driver’s seat in a delivery truck is much different than the view from our sedans or even pickup trucks; and dramatically different from the cabin of a tractor trailer? In fact, a perfectly attentive and cautious truck driver could have no idea you’re driving right next to them no matter how many times he checks his mirrors.

Don’t believe it? Check out this photo taken from the cab of the YRC Freight/Ohio State Highway Patrol No-Zone demonstration that’s set up today in the expo marketplace at BWC’s Ohio Safety Congress and Expo.

Now here’s a shot from the outside of the truck.

Yep, that car was there the whole time but it’s parked in the no-zone.

That’s the purpose of the no-zone demo – to give the public the opportunity to actually sit in the driver seat of a semi-tractor trailer to learn about blind spots and how they can drive more safely around the many commercial vehicles they encounter daily.

“The danger of the no-zone is that the truck driver can hit you and not even know it until he feels the collision,” said Mike St. Clair, Safety Team Manager for YRC Freight.

So what is the best thing to do when you find yourself in the no-zone?

Mike’s advice is simple: get out of the no-zone by getting around the truck.

“Your best option is to pass trucks in a safe manner,” Mike said.

Are you attending Safety Congress this week? Stop by the no-zone demo at booth 136 so you know the no-zone.

While you’re there, check out everything else Safety Congress has to offer. We’re at the Greater Columbus Convention Center through Friday.

You will also be able to catch the no-zone demo at the Ohio State Fair this summer.

Driving while drowsy a challenge for truckers

BWC ergonomist addresses Kentucky Trucking Association Nov. 15

By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Consultant

Drowsy driving kills.

In 2013, it caused 72,000 crashes on our nation’s highways, killing at least 800 drivers and passengers and injuring another 44,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some feel the true number of fatalities is actually closer to 6,000 deaths per year.

Drowsy driving is of particular concern to the trucking industry, and that’s why I presented “Shift Work, Circadian Rhythms, and Sleep” to the Ohio Trucking Association in January this year. Some members from the Kentucky Trucking Association were in the audience and invited me to give the same presentation to their association. So with BWC approval, I packed up my PowerPoint and traveled to Louisville on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The major points I shared with the association can apply to the rest of us, as well. The bottom line is this: Proper and sufficient sleep is critical to the quality of our lives at home and at work. Sleep deprivation impedes our work performance and threatens our health and safety. It can even cause brain damage. (More on that later.)

For truck drivers, it’s especially difficult to get a full and restful night of sleep. Irregular driving hours (often dictated by delivery schedules), lack of sufficient truck stops en route, and hours-of-service rules that don’t align with real world demands are some of the factors that can disrupt circadian rhythms and interfere with sleep. (Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.)

circadian-rhythms

Compounding the problem of sleep loss are electronic devices that emit blue light, such as laptops, tablets and smart phones. The wavelength of blue light has a strong inhibitory effect on the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Too much blue light at night and the amount of melatonin secreted in the brain drops dramatically. This leads to either poor sleep (with lots of night-time waking) or a delay in the sleep cycle, causing you to fall asleep later. Either way, it results in less sleep.

microsleepIf you’re sufficiently sleep deprived, you will fall asleep, whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night. This is because your brain simply shuts off, no matter the situation. It might be just an instance of “microsleep,”  a very short sleep episode lasting one to 30 seconds. Now imagine what that instance of microsleep can cause when you’re behind the wheel of a 40-ton 18-wheeler, or even a Subaru, for that matter, traveling at 70 mph.

People don’t know when they microsleep – indeed, you can microsleep with your eyes open! And you have no control over it. Just know that no amount of willpower, motivation, or training can overcome the effects of sleep deprivation.

Now, about that brain damage. Long term effects of chronic sleep loss can cause permanent brain damage. It turns out that sleep is essential for some basic brain housekeeping. Neurotoxins are removed during sleep – and only during sleep. Sleep loss means those neurotoxins accumulate in the brain, and that leads to neuron loss. Research has shown that sleep loss causes permanent and irreversible brain damage in mice.

Truck drivers aside, many people who work non-traditional hours (outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) face serious disruptions to their circadian rhythms, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. So protect your health, your brain, and stay safe on the roads by getting enough sleep! That’s seven to eight hours for most people every night. Also, be sure to avoid caffeine and electronic devices late at night.

One or two nights of insufficient sleep aren’t too bad – we’ve all been there – but don’t make a habit of it. Just be sure to make up your “sleep debt” as soon as possible.

Delia Treaster joined BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene in November 2013. She holds a master’s degree in human factors engineering and a Ph.D. in occupational biomechanics.