If you’ve ever driven through a snowstorm in the dark, you can begin to understand the challenges snowplow drivers face. Imagine being responsible for clearing a safe path on the snowy road’s edge while contending with traffic, disabled vehicles, people, fallen trees, powerlines, and wildlife. Add the irregular work hours, and the need to stay alert becomes even more demanding.
For most of my life, I’ve lived in a rural area, where daily driving is a way of life. However, a few stressful trips each year remind me of the difficulties that plow operators face, including neck and back pain. Hours of white-knuckle driving, hunched over the wheel in near-whiteout conditions, can be incredibly stressful and uncomfortable. Yet, I have the luxury of choosing to leave earlier, delay my trip, or take an alternate route to avoid poor driving conditions. Snowplow drivers don’t have these options.
Snowplow operators receive little recognition for their tireless work, even though they are the unsung heroes of Canadian winters. They endure the same muscle and joint pain that any of us would if we spent the night driving, leaning forward to ensure a safe path.
We have conducted training programs for snowplow drivers in various municipalities, typically before the winter season kicks into high gear. These practical, hands-on sessions focus on:
- adjusting the driver’s compartment
- work practices to prevent discomfort and injury
- driver-proven tips gathered over the years.
The sessions are not lengthy lectures; they include short presentations, demonstrations, and activities. They also feature facilitated discussions on techniques, practices, and exercises that drivers have found helpful. Following the training, drivers get the opportunity to adjust the driver’s compartment in an actual snowplow with the assistance of an ergonomist, receiving feedback on their driving posture and adjustments.
I once discovered an adjustment knob for lumbar support hidden between the center console and the side of my backrest, just weeks before I traded in my vehicle. I had searched for it many times, but it was located on the left side of the seat. I shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that some drivers may be unaware that the lumbar support or seat pan depth in their trucks can be adjusted. As an ergonomist, it’s rewarding to witness how small, easy adjustments can significantly enhance a driver’s comfort and safety. Similarly, these workers, who rarely get the chance to work with their colleagues, learn so much from each other!
Now is the optimal time to schedule this training, before the snow falls. Give your drivers every possible advantage to allow them to operate in comfort and safety this winter!
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