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How to best avoid short- and long-term injuries as a truck driver

Many Minnesota residents may see commercial trucks as nothing more than menaces on the highways. However, without the sacrifices of truckers, most of the goods consumers expect to find on the shelves of stores would not be there. Operators of big rigs put their health and safety on the line every day.

If you are one of those often unappreciated members of the workforce who spend many long hours on the road, you may be all too aware of the toll it takes on your body. Although the workers' compensation insurance program of your employer will likely have your back if you should suffer a workplace injury, many of the hazards you face cause damage over time. Those injuries may be challenging to prove to be work related.

Frequent truckers' injuries

The predominant injuries that you may suffer include strains and sprains of muscles -- often caused by improper lifting techniques. Falls during loading and unloading freight are also prevalent along with the hazards of being struck by falling objects. Neck and back pain can result from many hours of sitting in one position while driving.

Holding the vibrating steering wheel, along with the typical jerking of large trucks can lead to shoulder problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is not only your upper body that is vulnerable; jumping from the cab of the truck or the back during loading procedures can cause joint damage to knees, ankles and hips.

How can you prevent injuries?

Although it is the responsibility of your employer to protect your health and safety, there is only so much he or she can do while you are on the road. The following precautions may protect you from the most common truckers' injuries:

  • Take frequent breaks -- Pull off the road where it is safe. Walk around the truck, stretch and rest a while.
  • Avoid stimulants and lots of caffeine -- These provide only short bursts of energy but cannot prevent exhaustion from eventually taking over.
  • Wear a back brace -- It can protect your back when lifting heavy objects. However, the use of mechanical lifts is safer.
  • Avoid hazardous surfaces -- Be aware of the condition of loading areas -- wet and slippery areas can cause falls.
  • Avoid jumping from the truck-- Be careful when exiting or entering the cab. Remember the three-point contact theory, which is the best way to prevent slip-and-fall accidents.
  • Get enough rest -- Too many drivers have impossible deadlines to meet -- often forcing them to go without adequate sleep.
  • Keep fit-- Exercise regularly to keep your body fit.
  • Practice safe lifting techniques -- You can protect you back by rather bending at your knees when lifting objects.
  • Watch your diet-- Although this is a tough ask if you rely on truck-stops to get your meals. However, keep the importance of a healthy diet in mind and choose the healthiest food available.

While these may protect you from only some of the many hazards you will face, it might improve your chances of avoiding long-term consequences of years of trucking. However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to avoid going to a doctor if you suffer an on-the-job injury or illness while you are on a long-distance haul. Waiting until you get back home may exacerbate the damage or trauma. The Minnesota workers' compensation benefits will be available regardless of where you seek medical care.

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