I know that every job has it’s risks. In the years that I’ve been a bus driver and attendant, I’ve believe some areas of my health has been on decline.
Specifically my lung capacity. Breathing in diesel fumes are no joke. On my last day before my vacation, the bus I drove was admitting fumes that were very strong. I hope the mechanics got were able to fix that issue. I will refuse to drive it if the fumes are still there.
I find that I get a shortness of breath in certain environments. If there are a lot of people around me, I can lose my breath easily. The buses are on and running when it’s hot outside (for the air conditioning) and in the winter (for the heat). It is unavoidable to breathe in the fumes.
I also deal with what I call a “repetitive disorder.” Since I have to constantly stop and go, my (right) knee gets a beating. Some buses have different distances from the brake pedal to the gas pedal. Some are more farther away or more closer together. I don’t know which one I prefer, but I do know both affect me. Sometimes my knee or foot cramps up on me while I’m driving and it’s not pretty. Sometimes, my right hand cramps up on me as well. (from gripping the steering wheel.)
I try my best to stretch and do exercise so I can make up for the effects of the diesel and the knee/foot pain.
This article lists some of the common ailments bus drivers experience:
School bus drivers face a host of ergonomic hazards that can add up to serious trouble. For instance:
- Driving a bus is, for the most part, sedentary. Prolonged sitting puts an enormous strain on the disks of the spine–they become compressed and are deprived of nutrients and oxygen.
- Drivers are exposed to whole body vibration, which shakes and strains the disks of the spine.
- Seats on school buses are poorly designed and do not provide adequate support.
- Controls on school buses often require the driver to make strenuous movements to operate.
- Design of the controls requires excessive twisting of the upper body and head.
- Manually transferring children with disabilities to and from buses and vans places additional stress on the lower back, shoulders and neck.
The most prevalent musculoskeletal complaint of bus drivers is chronic lower back pain caused by prolonged sitting, vibration, and/or lifting disabled students. Studies of bus drivers have shown that up to 50 percent of them complain of pain, and that lower back pain starts early in a bus driver’s career. This pain is a sign that the driver is at risk of developing serious disk problems.
Other musculoskeletal problems also can follow or appear on their own.
- Sciatica. An intense shooting pain from the lower spine down the leg caused by lower back disk compression of a nerve. Poor seats that aren’t easily adjustable can add to the risk of sciatica. Women drivers are at risk for this ailment because seats are designed for men.
- Neck and Shoulder Injuries. Neck and shoulder pain also are a result of forceful handling of controls and excessive twisting of neck and shoulders during driving.
- Circulatory Problems. Circulation problems may develop in legs and hands.
HEALTHY HINTS FOR BUS DRIVERS
- Try to become as physically active as possible. Consult your doctor about the best program for you. Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and biking can significantly increase the oxygen, water and nutrient supply to your back disks. Exercise will help the disks recover from the restriction of those essential supplies during prolonged sitting.
- Stand and do mild stretches whenever you get an opportunity.
- Modify the force applied to controls (door, brake, etc.) to take some of the strain off your back.
- Try to modify your seat with such things as lumbar pillows to provide support for your lower back.
- Always try to get help lifting students and assisting them with their belongings.