Safety shields leading to shoulder injuries among bus drivers: hazard alert
Tumwater, WA — Bus drivers who repeatedly open and close manually operated safety shields used as a COVID-19 prevention measure are experiencing symptoms of shoulder injuries, according to a new safety alert from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
The alert states that drivers from several state transit agencies are having to reach out to their sides and behind their bodies while using force to move the shields. These repeated awkward movements and overreaching can put the shoulder joint at the end of its range of motion and cause damage over time. The rotator cuff can be especially prone to injury from these repeated movements.
Previous research from Washington L&I shows that shoulder injuries are more costly than any other work-related musculoskeletal disorder, costing an average of $28,000 and more than four months of lost work time per injury. Among workers’ compensation claims studied, 14% were the result of pulling or pushing injuries, while 10% were linked to turning, holding, carrying or wielding objects.
To prevent shoulder injuries, Washington L&I notes that the best solution is for the shields to be automated. If that’s not possible, modifications can be made, such as:
- Move handles to limit overreaching by drivers, and mount them vertically so they can be grasped in a more natural “handshake” position.
- Attach a strap to the shield that hangs near the driver for easy access and to prevent awkward movements.
- Make sure the magnet or device used to secure the shield requires the minimal amount of force necessary to operate while still reliably holding the shield in place.