Ann Work Expo Health. 2021 Sep 29:wxab078. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxab078. Online ahead of print.
Trucking is a key industry in Canada with around 180 000 professional drivers. As an industry it has a disproportionately high injury claim rate, particularly for back injuries. Whole-body vibration (WBV) can contribute to the onset and development of low back disorders, and is a well-documented exposure among driving professions. A widely adopted WBV mitigation measure focuses on hydraulic and/or pneumatic passive suspension systems both in the driver’s seat and underneath the vehicle cab. Passive suspension ‘air-ride’ seats are the current industry standard but new technologies such as the electromagnetic active vibration cancelling (EAVC) seats offer potentially substantial improvements in WBV reduction. In this paper, we evaluate and compare four commonly used truck seats (three air-ride, one EAVC) for their vibration damping characteristics and WBV exposure attenuation in on- and off-road conditions. We recruited 24 professional truck drivers who drove 280 km (mixed on-road and off-road) in ore-haul trucks under four different seating conditions. Following the ISO 2631-1 WBV standard, vibration measurements were made on the cab floor and seat pad, and 8-h average weighted vibration (A(8)) and 8-h vibration dose values (VDV(8)) were calculated, as well as the Seat Effective Amplitude Transmissibility (SEAT), and daily vibration action limits (DVALs). These measures were compared between seat types, as well as road conditions. The EAVC seat gave best performance for both A(8) (0.27 m s-2) and VDV(8) (6.6 m s-1.75). The EAVC also had the highest SEAT of the seats tested (36.2%) and the longest DVAL. However, among the three passive air-suspension seats, two showed significantly reduced A(8) (0.43 and 0.44 m s-2) and VDV(8) (9.1 and 9.3 m s-1.75) exposures relative to the third passive air-suspension seats [A(8) (0.54 m s-2) and VDV(8) (11.1 m s-1.75)]. These differences in exposures among the three passive air-suspension seats resulted in varying DVAL times, with the worst performing seat reaching the DVAL after only 6.3 h of driving. There was also a seat by road type interaction; there were performance differences between the passive air-suspension seats on-road, but not off-road. The observed reduction of the WBV exposures measured from the EAVC seat was consistent with previous results. But we showed that there can also be substantive differences among seats that are the current industry standard. These differences were more evident on-road than off-road, which suggests that more work needs to be done to understand seat performance characteristics, and in matching the correct seat technology to the driving task. We demonstrated that WBV exposures in current industry conditions may exceed health-based exposure limits; this has policy relevance because WBV exposures are linked to prevalent and costly adverse health conditions in a working population that is ageing. Increased WBV measurement collection is recommended to ensure the anticipated exposure attenuations are achieved when seats are relied upon as an engineered control against WBV.
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