Having a job as a flatbed driver is dangerous for many reasons. Often more harmful than driving accidents, are falls. Falls can cause head, neck and shoulder injuries and even death.
Having a job as a flatbed driver is dangerous for many reasons. Often more harmful than driving accidents, are falls. Falls can cause head, neck and shoulder injuries and even death. Drivers need to remember that falls can happen any time, even walking on a flat surface, but a fall from even a four-foot height can cause serious damage to a driver. Falls can occur from the cab, empty trailer and/or a load.
Following are seven factors that can contribute to driver falls.
#1 Lack of Current Safety Standards
Not having specific requirements or any way to enforce them is a major issue. Many OSHA standards have not changed since they were created in 1970. Some refer to equipment that no longer exists and procedures that are now irrelevant. Even worse OSHA has no specific regulations covering fall protection on vehicles (rolling stock). That’s a problem and difficult to solve since situations vary, procedures are not always cut and dry, and training may be minimal or non-existent in some cases.
#2 Lack of Safety Equipment
A flatbed, even when empty, can have a slick surface. With no handrails around the edges or any proper ladders or steps to climb to reach a flatbed safely, drivers take risks just trying to get up on the flatbed or load. There is nothing to stop them from tripping and falling.
#3 A Driver’s Physical Condition
Driving is a sedentary job. Do it long enough and physical conditioning will begin to deteriorate. The average age of a flatbed driver is 48 years. Factors that can cause a driver to be less than top form are:
• advanced age
• excess weight
• impaired mobility
• lack of experience
• fatigue caused by irregular hours
• alcohol and drug use
#4 Loading & Tarping
Loading and tarping require a great deal of physical energy. Usually the shipper is responsible for loading a truck and deciding whether or not to tarp the load. If the driver DOES need to tarp a load, the activity often has to be done away from the loading dock, which means away from safety equipment. Even while on the highway, a driver has to stop at certain intervals to check the cargo and the security of the tarp and load per the DOT.
#5 Climbing on a Load
If it’s so dangerous you might wonder why a driver would even climb on a load? There are several reasons and all have to do with product – protecting the integrity of the product and ensuring it is secure enough for travel:
• Tarping the load
• Checking the load
• Securing the load
• Adjusting chains or straps
• Adding protectors under straps
If a driver must manually tarp a load, this activity greatly increases the risk of injury. Tarps can weigh anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds. Trying to lift one could injure an out of shape driver. Add to that wind, cold, and rain and it’s even worse.
#7 Fall Hazards
Once a driver makes it onto the flatbed safely, the fall risk increases even more. Loads can be uneven, unstable, slippery, or have holes – all factors that can contribute to a bad fall. Add any of the following factors and you’ve got a recipe for disaster:
• Bad weather
• Improper footwear
• Improper climbing
• Lack of support
• Not paying attention
• Trying to hurry
How to Improve
There is no quick fix for the serious issue of driver falls, but there are ways to improve processes so your drivers can work smarter and safer:
• Use of protective gear – hard hat, gloves
• Provide helpers to assist with tarping
• Increase safety in the workplace with updated fall prevention equipment
• Emergency plan for response if a fall occurs
And there’s also the Hierarchy of Fall Protection – the well-known industry formula for decreasing the likelihood of falls:
1) Elimination of the hazard
2) If a hazard cannot be eliminated, then use fall Prevention
3) And the least loved solution – fall Arrest
Mandatory Training can give drivers a fighting chance. It educates them on how to handle the hazards they encounter on a daily basis.
Shippers should review their requirements for tarping and minimize the need for it whenever possible. Where tarping is absolutely necessary, shippers should provide fall prevention equipment and assistance to drivers performing the task.
Tarping flatbed loads is a dangerous undertaking and the need for solutions deserves the trucking industry’s serious and immediate attention. Drivers and employers can act together to create a safer work environment. Carbis has two equipment solutions – an overhead tarping system and a flatbed safety system. Both prevent falls by eliminating the need for a driver to carry a heavy tarp while climbing up onto the flatbed and walking all over the load. If you need to better protect your company drivers with fall prevention equipment, contact Carbis today at 1.800.948.7750 and let us show you how we can help.