When accidents occur on the job site, productivity is hampered, and injuries may result in more than just lost time. OSHA citations and fines, worker’s compensation, lawsuits and other problems all impact the bottom line. Loading and unloading hazards on flatbed trucks are common causes of accidents, and, when proper safety precautions aren’t taken, those accidents keep happening.
Operating procedures, training and manuals are great resources, but if the proper safety equipment is not provided, the job either doesn’t get done or gets done unsafely and inefficiently.
Let’s take a quick look at one way to reduce accidents at the job site if flatbeds are part of your operation.
Pinpointing the Problem
When we refer to flatbed trucks, we mean a large vehicle with a gross weight of over 10,000 pounds without passengers and cargo, and which has an open flat bed without walls or sides where the cargo is carried.
Flatbed trucks have two main types of safety issues: those that happen on the road and those off that occur of the road. On-road accidents typically refer to materials or cargo falling off of the truck and hitting a person or vehicle, or creating a hazard which leads to an accident. On-road accidents are also caused when the cargo shifts and causes the truck to swerve or crash. On the other hand, off-road accidents generally occur when the people who are loading or unloading the cargo are injured during the process.
The primary ways employees can get hurt while loading or unloading flatbeds include:
- Slipping while climbing up or down to access the load
- Slipping while climbing on the cargo
- Slipping while tarping or tying down the cargo
Defining the Solution
When loading or unloading a flatbed, the key is proper communication and equipment. Every person operating on or around the flatbed should be aware of the danger zone, the safe zone and the proper use of safety equipment including chocks, dunnage, load securements and fall protection equipment. When large cargo is on board, the first questions every employee should be asking are “Where do I go if something goes wrong? What is my escape plan?”
The one question nobody should ever have to ask is “What happens if I fall?”
Flatbed safety solutions are highly customizable to fit your location and needs. One of the most popular systems is the mobile loading platform, which is light enough to be moved by a single user but strong enough to meet the most stringent OSHA standards. Choose an option with 360-degree swiveling casters to ensure it can be safely lined up against the roughest trucks or the most delicate machinery. Wheels should be able to move across multiple terrains and lock to provide stability.
Platforms typically have the same workspace as a fixed platform with stairs that meet OSHA specs for the depth and width of a loading platform. Rails protect against falls, but they can be removed to provide access over obstructions. Handrails and rails should be removable without the need for tools so the platforms can be reconfigured on the fly. Choose one and move it, or run one up to both sides of the truck to speed up operations.
Customizations for mobile platforms include sliding gangways, overhead trolley rail fall protection and automatic tarping solutions. Platforms can also be combined with canopies to reduce the chances of rain, snow and other elements affecting stability and footing.
Preventing the Accident
The number one way to prevent falls is to not be in a position to fall in the first place. When safety solutions are able to keep employees on the ground (such as tarping solutions) they are not going to fall from a height. But if your employees must work at a height, there is no substitute for being locked into a fall prevention system, and, when used together with a moveable platform, you significantly reduce the risk of injury or death.
Ladders require three points of solid contact. Swinging up over the back end of a truck bed or jumping off a tire to access the truck deck are actions that are only asking for an accident. Add to the equation the amount of force that is typically required to tarp or secure a load, and it’s no wonder that so many injuries and fatalities occur from falls off of flatbed trucks. Thankfully, with the use of a few simple safety solutions, drivers no longer have to put themselves in these dangerous situations.
When flatbed fall safety solutions are in place and used properly, drivers and other workers are safer, productivity increases as downtime and hesitation decrease, accidents decrease and organizations like OSHA and MSHA are appeased.