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Accidents are not the only hazards truckers face

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the trucking industry is responsible for more work-related fatalities than any other occupation nationwide, including Iowa. Although a significant number of deaths in this industry result from accidents, the nature of their jobs causes many occupational injuries to commercial truck drivers.

If you earn your living hauling cargo across the country, you face multiple risks of injuries that can cause lost workdays and jeopardize your financial stability. Fortunately, safety agencies like OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics gather data to identify the most common hazards and also provide tips on how to stay safe.

Vehicle-related hazards

Although crashes will always be a significant threat of your occupation, the following dangers are also truck related:

  • Exhaust gases such as carbon monoxide can cause acute poisoning.
  • If you haul flammable substances in a tank-truck, a leak or spill from a collision or mechanical failure can cause fire and burn hazards.
  • Insufficient rest can cause fatigue, which will put you at a higher crash risk -- especially on long hauls.
  • Hazardous cargo, including chemicals and explosives can cause intoxication, chemical burns or even death.
  • Whenever you disengage the trailer from your truck, you will risk being crushed between the two.
  • Moving about the truck's cabin, the trailer, or climbing a ladder will always pose slip or trip-and-fall hazards.

Chemical hazards

Your job can put you at risk of any of the following:

  • If you travel on desert roads, excessive dust can cause respiratory problems.
  • Continued exposure to exhaust fumes can result in chronic health problems.
  • A range of health problems can follow exposure to hazardous or toxic loads.
  • Contact with chemicals could cause dermatitis or other skin conditions.
  • Transporting biologically hazardous cargo will increase risks of contamination or infection.

Ergonomic hazards

These hazards are all about body positions and the ease of access to the tools of a job. As a big-rig driver on long hauls, you can look out for the following:

  • Make sure that the seat and the backrest are in a comfortable position.
  • Long periods in uncomfortable positions can lead to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic pain in your lower back.
  • These hazards also include vision discomfort, especially when you have to navigate poorly illuminated or dark roads.

Physical hazards

The list of physical hazards is almost endless, but the following are the most common injury risks:

  • You may suffer overexertion and physical trauma if your job involves moving, pushing and lifting of heavy cargo.
  • The UV rays of the sun can cause skin damage, even through the truck's windows.
  • Big-rig engine noise can exceed 80 decibels, and prolonged exposure can result in hearing loss and severe headaches.
  • Driving a commercial vehicle exposes you to whole-body vibrations that might bring about fatigue and impair your musculoskeletal functions.
  • Your job will expose you to extreme climatic conditions, putting you at risk of suffering frostbite or heat stroke.

Psychosocial hazards

Your job will isolate you from other people, and you might have to deal with the following consequences and risks:

  • The long periods that you spend away from your family may cause stress and concern for their welfare.
  • Not being there to spend special occasions with your loved one may exacerbate the trauma of being away from them.
  • Being alone will make you a target of violence -- especially if you haul valuable cargo.

Along with all these, you could face even more hazards if your vehicle breaks down, or if you are responsible for the maintenance and repairs of your truck.

How will you cope with the consequences of injuries?

Fortunately, the Iowa workers' compensation insurance program has the backs of injured truckers. While you spend time recovering, an attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of commercial vehicle drivers can deal with the navigation of your benefits claim. This will cover your medical expenses, and the compensation will also include a wage-replacement package.

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