Pour Me Another Cup of Coffee

Jones Posted by Anthony G. Jones, R.N., COHN

Pour Me another Cup of Coffee… for I am a truck driving man” comes from the song “Truck Drivin’ Man” recorded by Buck Owens in 1965. This blast from the past came to mind when thumbing through a recent AAOHN journal. I came across an article referencing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study on caffeine and truck driving.1  The study looked at the relationship between caffeine use, sleep, and “Safety Critical Events” (SCE). An SCE is described as a collision, tire strike, near-collision, unexpected lane deviation, or collision related conflict. 

The VTTI study, conducted over a four-month period, used long and short haul drivers from four companies. The subjects drove instrumented trucks, which included cab mounted video and driver maintained logs recording their sleep patterns and caffeine use.  Any SCE events were evaluated by researchers watching the video feeds in conjunction with the subject’s log books.

The study revealed that caffeine did not interrupt the sleep of drivers who were habitual users of caffeine. Drivers in the study actually slept longer during their “on duty” sleep periods than during their “off duty” sleep periods. This was despite increased caffeine use during “on duty” periods. Although it was noted in the study “participants experienced less sleep than the time historically considered adequate for safe driving performance.”

That was interesting, but what really got my attention was this finding: “Overall, a 6% reduction in the rate of SCE per eight (8) ounces of caffeinated beverage consumed.”

The positive and negative effects of caffeine are well known. It is one of the most used stimulants and commonly found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soft drinks.  According to WebMD, caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, heart, muscles, and the centers that control blood pressure. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, but it might not have this effect on people that use it all the time.  It can also act as a “water pill”, or a mild diuretic. But again, it may not have this effect on people who use caffeine regularly. Caffeine improves mental alertness and is used in combination with painkillers such as aspirin and Tylenol to treat simple and migraine headaches. 

Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.  That’s roughly four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two “energy shot” drinks.  Heavy use of more than 500 to 600 mg a day may cause such symptoms as insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. 

The VTTI study suggests SCE’s may be reduced for those who have the caffeine habit. The VTTI study suggested “caffeine use among habitual users offers some protection against SCE without negative effect on sleep.”  However, two groups did not improve. Drivers aged 30 to 39 had an increase in collisions, and drivers aged 21 to 29 experienced an increase in unexpected lane deviations. The report indicated it wasn’t clear if those age groups were more distracted by secondary activities, or risky behavior such as speeding or tail-gating.

An Australian study also found caffeine use had a positive benefit in SCE reduction. The study used more subjects, a control group, and ran longer than the VTTI study.  “Our findings suggest that the consumption of caffeinated stimulant substances is associated with a significantly reduced risk of involvement in a crash for long distance drivers in Australia,” the study concluded. “The use and influence of caffeinated stimulants should be considered as an effective adjunct strategy to maintain alertness while driving.”

It appears the use of caffeine can have a benefit in reducing overall truck accidents and near miss incidences. That’s the good news. The bad news is truck drivers are not getting adequate sleep.  Significantly, as shown in the Australian study, the SCE benefits only came with high consumption of caffeine. There was no real improvement for those with low or moderate caffeine use.

Significantly, according to Lisa Sharwood, M.S., one of the Australian study authors, “While caffeine may seem effective in enhancing their alertness...it should be considered carefully in the context of a safe and healthy fatigue management strategy… Energy drinks and coffee certainly don't replace the need for sleep.” 

For more information regarding sleep and safe driving, check out the resources available at DrowsyDriving.org., and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

 

1 American Association of Occupational Health Nurse Association (AAOHN) “Workplace Health and Safety” August 2015 Vol. 63 #8.  “The Effect of Caffeine Use on Driving Safety Among Truck Drivers Who are Habitual Caffeine Users.” Authored by Karen Heaton PhD, FNP-BC and Russell Griffin PhD.

 

 

 

 


Safety Shoes – Selecting the Right Shoe for Your Workplace

LevesquePosted by Adam Levesque, MBA, CSP

What better day to discuss this topic than “Shoe the World Day?”  There are multiple factors to consider when selecting the most appropriate foot protection.  The goal is to make sure that your feet are comfortable, supported, and protected.  In a recent post, we demonstrated that a pair of safety shoes is an effective piece of personal protective equipment.  However, the hazards are not only falling objects or fork trucks rolling over toes, but discomfort due to improper fit and selection.  Choosing the appropriate safety shoe could prevent foot related problems like bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, and even prevent discomfort to the legs, hips, and back. 

Consider these tips when selecting your next pair.

  1. Safety should be the initial consideration when selecting the correct pair of protective footwear. There are many options in the market but you should choose a pair that will protect your feet from the hazards present.  A combination of safety toe caps, metatarsal guards (protection for the top of the foot), steel plate soles (puncture resistant), sole material (slip resistance, electrical insulation, flexibility, and hardness), and overall construction materials used should be considered. 
  1. Fit is very important! Did you know that the human foot actually grows during the day and shrinks while you sleep? While that’s not entirely true, everyone’s feet are slightly larger after a hard day’s work.  This means the end of the day is the best time to try on a new pair of shoes or boots.  Making sure your new shoes fit well is key to preventing future discomfort.  About one-third of adult men are wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, so take the time to ensure you are selecting the proper size.   
  1. Comfort is a must! The majority of quality safety shoes and boots will not stretch or need a break in period.  Make sure that when you’re test driving potential footwear, your feet are immediately comfortable.  Areas of comfort include appropriate space in the toe box, no pinching or cramping at the ball of the foot or toe area, and adequate support in the arch and heel. Make sure the padding and materials used are adequate for your work climate.  Utilizing a shoe with moisture control technology for both warm and cold climates is a great option, but can affect how your shoe fits.  When feet are comfortable, your knees, hips, and lower back are better aligned and supported.

Be aware that no footwear can provide protection against all injuries.  Hazards must be controlled by elimination, engineering controls, and administrative controls primarily.  Relying on PPE alone is not acceptable.  However, by selecting the correct shoe for your work environment and personal needs, you will have the best personal protection for preventing foot related injuries should other controls fail. 

Additional information on safety footwear is available from several online sites including The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, WorkingPerson.me, National Safety Council,  OSHA, and Grainger.   


Load Limits for Structurally Supported Surfaces

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

The last line of the lyrical refrain in the 1968 hit song “The Weight” by Canadian-American rock group The Band reads, “You put the load right on me.”  In the context of a work environment with a mezzanine storage platform, this verse conjures up a mental picture of disaster for anyone who might happen to be underneath the platform if it were to suddenly collapse.  OSHA addresses this load limit concern in their recently updated Walking-Working Surfaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.22, general requirements, as follows:

    1910.22(b) Loads. The employer must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface.

It’s important to note the previous general industry rule, 1910.22(d), required that “a plate of approved design indicating the floor load capacity must be posted.”  In a letter of interpretation, OSHA states, “There is no longer a requirement for a floor loading sign; however, the employer must ensure that employees involved in warehousing or storage activities know the intended load limits. This applies to ‘structurally supported surfaces.’”  

The general requirements of the standard also cover inspection, maintenance, and repair with the employer to ensure:

  • Walking-working surfaces are inspected, regularly and as necessary, and maintained in a safe condition;
  • Hazardous conditions on walking-working surfaces are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again. If the correction or repair cannot be made immediately, the hazard must be guarded to prevent employees from using the walking-working surface until the hazard is corrected or repaired; and
  • When any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair.

While there are several online resources for calculating floor load capacity, it is advisable to have a professional engineer calculate the maximum intended load.  In a manner of speaking, maintaining the structural integrity of a storage platform along with ensuring its maximum load capacity is not exceeded is intended to ensure “the last waltz” doesn’t happen to an employee working on or under the supported structure.

MEMIC policyholders have access to a General Industry Self Inspection Checklist in the Safety Director Resource Library.