Truck Driver Health and Safety

Trucker employment expected to grow by 11%

By John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

From armchairs to zucchini, almost everything we buy is transported by truck. Long-haul truck drivers are drivers of heavy tractor trailers whose freight delivery routes require them to sleep away from home most nights. They live on the road with limited access to healthy foods, drive long hours, have low physical activity levels, and feel stress from demanding schedules. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 11% from 2012 to 2022. As more men and women become truck drivers, it is important that we make their health and safety a priority.

Last year, NIOSH published the findings from the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. The study is the first to provide a comprehensive look at the health status, health and safety risk factors, and work practices of long-haul truck drivers in the United States. During 2010, NIOSH researchers collected data from 1,670 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the 48 contiguous United States.

Data from the survey are a key component of NIOSH’s first-ever Vital Signs, CDC’s monthly release of data and calls to action on important public health issues. The theme of this month’s Vital Signs, launched on March 3, is Trucker Safety: Using a Seat Belt MattersVital Signs includes an article in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) based on data on truck drivers’ seat belt use from the NIOSH survey. It also provides a graphic fact sheet and website, a media release, and social media tools. Most of the Vital Signs materials are available in English and Spanish.

Crashes Leading Cause of Trucker Fatalities

It will come as no surprise to our readers that motor vehicles crashes are the leading cause of fatal work-related injuries for truck drivers in the United States. But, the NIOSH survey provides important new insights into the relationship between long-haul drivers’ work environment and a higher likelihood of health problems. Key health findings of the survey were:

  • Seven in ten long-haul truck drivers were obese (BMI of 30 or higher)—twice the number of U.S. adult workers that were obese.
  • More than half of long-haul truck drivers were current cigarette smokers—over twice the number of current cigarette smokers among all U.S. adult workers.
  • Long-haul truck drivers were twice as likely as other workers to report they were told they had diabetes.
  • More than half of long-haul truck drivers reported having two or more of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, little physical activity, high cholesterol, six or fewer hours of sleep.
  • About six in ten long-haul truck drivers slept less than six days at home within the past month, while 18% spent zero days.

Poor health can affect truck drivers during their working lives and into retirement. Health issues can also force truck drivers to leave the industry. If a health problem affects a driver’s ability to control and drive a commercial motor vehicle safely, he or she may not qualify for a commercial driver’s license. This infographic, created by NIOSH, illustrates the impact of obesity on a truck driver’s livelihood.

This initial survey on long-haul truck drivers provides baseline health and injury data that can be used to inform the development of interventions such as occupational health screenings, well-being programs, and expanded workplace health and safety policies. Findings from the study have been used to demonstrate the need to address the health and well-being of truck drivers on and off the job. The data can be used as benchmarks to assess the impact of prevention efforts on truck driver health and safety and help improve the overall health and work environment for long-haul truck drivers.

I invite you to learn about our work and to consider ways in which you can collaborate in moving this research to practice. Please contact Karl Sieber at WSieber@cdc.gov if you are interested in partnering in this endeavor.

New Signs That Move You to Safety

More dynamic warning signs could reduce accidents

New PictureTraffic accidents claim lives, cause injury, and cost money. Working on ways to reduce them is a constant battle.

New research from Michigan Ross Professor Aradhna Krishna and post-doctoral scholar Luca Cian shows a simple way that could drive those numbers down—make the pictures on road warning signs depict more action.

A series of studies they ran with co-author Ryan Elder of Brigham Young’s Marriott School of Management showed that more dynamic signs led to quicker driver reaction and a heightened sense of vigilance.

It’s the latest practical application of sensory marketing, a field pioneered by Krishna.

“From evolutionary psychology we know that humans have developed systems to detect potential predators and other dangers,” says Krishna, Dwight F. Benton Professor of Marketing. “Thus, our attention system has evolved to detect actual movement automatically and quickly. In many contexts, such as road signs, actual animation is not possible. However, even static signs can be designed to invoke a sense of movement. These signs can then elicit similar consequences as animation—faster attention and faster reactions.”

Their paper, “A Sign of Things to Come: Behavioral Change Through Dynamic Iconography,” will be published in a future edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors performed five studies that compared signs with varying degrees of perceived motion and measured eye movement, driver reactions, and a sense of alertness. The results showed signs that depicted a higher sense of movement led to quicker reactions and more awareness of potential danger.

For example, the driving simulation showed that drivers slowed down faster when they saw signs with more action-oriented pictures. Reaction times were 50 milliseconds faster. That may not sound like much, but for a car traveling 60 mph, that’s a distance of 4.4 feet and can mean the difference between having an accident or not.

About 37,000 people a year die in car accidents in the United States, with an additional 2.35 million injured. Accidents also drive up insurance, repair, and healthcare costs.

“Many of our senses alert us to danger and to be more vigilant, such as our sense of smell and sound, and even taste,” says Cian. “This is another method by which the body is telling us to be more vigilant.”

The research also can be applied to other areas where consumers could be nudged toward more positive behavior, such as factory or production warning signs, recycling signs, consumer safety labels, or images for healthful food.

Roofing Contractor Faces Prison

Charged with ignoring safety hazards, failing to pay fines

A Maine roofing contractor’s continued refusal to obey a federal court order to correct safety hazards and pay more than $400,000 in fines could send him to jail. The U.S. Department of Labor has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston to hold Stephen Lessard in civil contempt for defying a 2011 court order to correct violations cited by OSHA and pay $404,000 in fines and interest for the violations levied from 2000 to 2011.

“We have asked the court to subject Mr. Lessard to strong sanctions, including incarceration, if he continues to flout the law and the court’s earlier order,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England. “Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is warranted in this case.”

Despite all this, Lessard continues to break the law. In January, OSHA cited him for egregious willful, repeated and serious violations for fall-related hazards at another work site and fined him $287,000.

 

Wallingford Workers Avert Explosion, Fire

Company faces $86,900 in penalties for safety violations

Employees at a Wallingford freight shipping terminal faced dangerous chemical, fire, and explosion hazards on Oct. 6, 2014, as they tried to contain a highly flammable and explosive chemical spill without proper training and personal protective equipment, OSHA investigators have determined.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA found two repeated and four serious violations of workplace safety standards by Ohio-based R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC. The company faces $86,900 in proposed fines. The repeated violations stem from similar hazards cited by OSHA during a 2011 inspection of an R+L terminal in Chicago.

“These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “These deficiencies in emergency response by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury.”

The investigation determined a forklift was being used to move a pallet of tetrahydrofuran, a highly flammable liquid with a flash point of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, from one truck to another when a 55-gallon drum containing the liquid was punctured accidentally. The chemical began leaking through the truck bed to the ground. R+L employees attempted to contain the spill with sorbent material beneath the truck and by cordoning off the area. OSHA investigators found that Wallingford terminal’s management lacked an emergency response plan and had not trained employees as first responders.

Management also did not evaluate the hazards associated with tetrahydrofuran; failed to provide the responding employees with appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment; and did not have a qualified person on-site to oversee the response. The terminal’s emergency action plan also did not include procedures for timely reporting of emergency events. It was also noted that employees had not been briefed on updates to the plan. Finally, the forklift that punctured the drum was not operated properly.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeated violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

R+L has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

USPS Ordered to Pay Employee $229,000 in Whistleblower Case

Worker faced hostile retaliation

A U.S. District Court has upheld OSHA’s 2008 finding that the United States Postal Service violated worker protections under the OSH Act by retaliating against one of its safety specialists for assisting a coworker on a health and safety concern and for filing his own whistleblower complaints alleging retaliation and harassment. The court found that the employee is entitled to $229,228 in damages.

Soon after helping his coworker report unhealthful workplace conditions, the safety specialist found himself in an increasingly hostile work environment. In a matter of months, he was transferred to another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, restricted in his movements, publicly humiliated, and subjected to four openly antagonistic interviews as part of workplace investigations. He was also issued a disciplinary letter and refused a promotion.

In April 2008, he filed his first whistleblower complaint with OSHA in Seattle. Several more complaints would follow as hostilities increased.

In addition to providing damages, the court ruling also requires the Postal Service to promote the employee to the same pay rate he would have now, had he not been denied a promotion. The judge also enjoined the Seattle-area Postal Service from discriminating against employees who complain to or cooperate with OSHA, and from failing to take action against managers who interfere with employees exercising their rights under the OSH Act.

 

OSHA Announces Final Rule on Handling Retaliation Complaints

Protects whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley

On March 5, 2015, OSHA published a final rule finalizing procedures for handling whistleblower retaliation complaints filed under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The SOX Act protects workers who report fraudulent activities and violations of Securities Exchange Commission rules that can harm investors in publicly traded companies.

“Silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable,” said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This final rule safeguards investors by protecting whistleblowers who shine a light on illegal or fraudulent conduct that otherwise may go uncorrected.”

SOX prohibits publicly-traded companies, nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations, and other covered persons from retaliating against an employee who provides information about conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates federal mail, wire, bank or securities fraud statutes, SEC rules, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

For more information, click here.

Latest OSHA Activity

Bristol trash-to-energy plant faces $80,000 in fines

OSHA has cited Covanta Energy Bristol Inc. for 16 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. These include:

  • Allowing combustible dust to accumulate on ledges, conduits, floors, guardrails, work platforms and catwalks
  • Failing to determine employees’ exposure level to ash containing toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic
  • Inadequate training and protective clothing for an employee performing testing on live electrical parts
  • Inadequate safeguards for employees working in confined spaces
  • Lack of an emergency eyewash for employees working with batteries
  • Fall, fork truck, air pressure and mechanical hazards

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known

“Covanta Energy Bristol Inc. needlessly exposed its employees to the hazards of electrocution, fire, falls, slips and trips, crushing, being trapped or overcome in a confined space, eye injuries, and cancer, lung, or kidney damage,” said Terence McEvily, OSHA’s acting area director in Hartford. “It must take effective steps to eliminate these hazards and prevent them from happening again.”


OSHA and NIOSH Issue Hazard Alert on Protecting Workers from Silica Exposure D
uring Countertop Manufacture and Installation

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have jointly issued a hazard alert about protecting workers from significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops.

The hazard alert follows reports of 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel who developed silicosis–an incurable, progressively disabling, and sometimes fatal lung disease–as a result of exposure to crystalline silica in their work manufacturing stone countertops. Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants as a result of their condition.

OSHA and NIOSH have identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in stone countertop operations in the United States, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. The alert jointly issued by OSHA and NIOSH explains how this hazard can be mitigated with simple and effective dust controls.

Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks, and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis. Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough, and fatigue and may or may not be obviously attributable to silica. Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

The hazard alert details what can be done at stone countertop fabrication and installation worksites to protect workers from exposure to silica. This includes monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; and providing workers with respiratory protection when needed, training, and information about the hazards of silica.


Massachusetts Roofing Contractor Cited for Fourth Time for Exposing Employees to Potentially Fatal Falls; Faces
 $43,560 in Fines

William Trahant, Jr., Construction, Inc., of Lynn, Mass., was cited by OSHA for one willful, one repeat, and three serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. These include: lack of fall protection for employees repairing an asphalt shingle roof on a three-story house, inadequate anchorage points for fall arrest lines, and not training employees to recognize and address fall hazards.

An additional fall hazard stemmed from using a damaged portable ladder, with split rails and bent rungs, to access the roof. Finally, an employee working on the ground beneath the roofers lacked a hardhat, exposing him to falling objects.

The willful and repeat citations stem from this employer’s history of fall protection violations. William Trahant, Jr. Construction, Inc., was previously cited by OSHA for similar violations in August 2014 for a worksite located in Revere, Mass., September 2012 for a site in Peabody, and July 2011 for another site in Peabody.

“Trahant Construction continues to demonstrate a wanton disregard for employee safety, exposing its employees to deadly or disabling injuries on multiple occasions,” said Anthony Covello, OSHA’s acting area director in Andover. “Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work. This employer must take steps to effectively train and enforce a culture of safety for himself and his employees.”


Central Transport LLC Shipping Exposes Terminal Employees
in Multiple States to Injuries and Death from Defective Forklifts 

Employees at Central Transport LLC’s 170 freight shipping terminals nationwide use forklifts daily to move, handle, load, and unload freight and other materials. These vehicles must be maintained according to recognized safety standards, so that workers are not crushed, struck by, or injured by defective forklifts.

Multiple inspections during the last several years by OSHA have found that Central Transport has repeatedly left dangerously defective forklifts in service in at least 11 shipping terminals in nine states: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

As a result, the department has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission seeking an order to require the freight shipper to remove damaged, defective and unsafe powered industrial trucks from service at all its locations nationwide.

“A systemic problem demands a systemic solution,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Central Transport’s corporate safety managers participated in several OSHA inspections and were aware of the widespread nature of these hazards, but have not corrected them across the board. This means that employees at many Central Transport terminals continue to be exposed to deadly or disabling injuries day after day. This must change.”

The department’s complaint alleges that Central Transport has been aware of the need to remove damaged, defective, and unsafe forklifts from service since 2006. Several OSHA inspections resulted in 11 citations and final orders, which required Central Transport to remove damaged forklifts from service. However, OSHA inspections in 2014 of company freight terminals in Billerica, Massachusetts, and Rock Island and Hillside, Illinois, found that the company, despite its awareness of the hazards involved, knowingly allowed this dangerous practice to continue at multiple locations.

“When a company operates in multiple locations and workers face similar hazards at many, if not all, locations, their safety can’t be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. Given the breadth and severity of the hazards these workers face, and Central Transport’s failure to respond proactively, we are seeking an order requiring correction at all of the company’s locations where these hazards exist,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor in Boston, whose office filed the complaint.

Central Transport, based in Warren, Michigan, employs about 4,300 workers at 170 locations nationwide.

After the Distraction Ends, the Danger Remains

New facts about interrupted road awareness

You reach down to adjust the dial on your car radio. It only takes two seconds, so you say it is no big deal and perfectly safe.

New research from Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute for Safety, however, indicates that may be an incorrect assumption. It has been understood that even minor distractions while driving increase crash risk, but the reasons have been elusive. The study sought to provide further insight on the dangers behind distracted driving

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that in-vehicle glances be restricted to no more than two seconds. Unfortunately, if you do something minor, such as turning the radio knob, which ostensibly may only take two seconds, the risk period  may be longer than you realize.

The Liberty study demonstrated that driver’s road awareness is interrupted for more than just two seconds. There is an additional readjustment period as the driver returns to focusing on the road that impacts the ability to concentrate on the road and properly assess new hazards. Increasing the danger was drivers’ lack of awareness of their poor hazard identification.

As one of the investigators points out, “ The fact that drivers consistently missed critical information but were unaware of having missed it suggests that they would be likely to continue unsafe behaviors. We need to find ways to illustrate to drivers just how much in-vehicle distractions can impair their driving performance.”

 

New NIOSH Web Page on Engineering Controls

Critical information on eliminating workplace hazards

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has posted a new directory page that links to NIOSH Web pages, projects, programs, tools, and resources related to engineering controls created to improve workplace health and safety.

Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard.

Click here to view the new page.

Total Worker Health

Integrating health protection, health promotion

Occupational safety and health programs and workplace health promotion efforts traditionally have operated in silos. The good news is that’s finally changing.

An emerging body of evidence recognizes that separate approaches are not as effective as integrated approaches that consider worker safety, health, and well-being at work and beyond the workplace.

Today, more employers are making the connection that a safe, healthy, and engaged workforce affects their bottom line.

Learn more from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.