Climbing onto the deck of a tray or trailer can be like walking the plank.
The dangerous practice exposes workers to a high risk of falling several metres, typically onto concrete, and invariably results in serious head injuries, or even death.
Such incidents are all too common in the road freight industry where falls from height account for 13 per cent of workers’ compensation claims, the majority of which are major claims.
While not climbing onto decks in the first place is clearly the safest solution, this is evidently not always practical for truckies and loading bay workers.
The official line from WorkCover NSW is if accessing a deck is absolutely essential, then safety solutions such as chin-strap helmets, hand rails and other fall protection measures are a priority.
Safety steps, for example, are crucial to enable workers to access truck decks without having to precariously climb up the back or sides.
Also effective is positioning mobile stairs near a trailer to eliminate the need to be on a deck to monitor or guide loading activity.
If unable to avoid climbing on deck, then it is critical to use an arrest system, such as an overhead cable and harness system to prevent serious falls.
Even better is a fall prevention platform aligned firmly against the vehicle with outer platform wheels locked so workers can access the deck attached by a waist belt to the platform railing.
In addition to the provision and correct use of safety equipment, it is equally important drivers and loaders are aware of safe work practices to prevent falls:
• Never step backwards, only forwards so you can see where you are going and any slip or trip hazards, as well as how close you are to the edge
• don’t tension chains or straps close to the edge or from ground level – use available platforms to stand on and ensure you have firm footing while securing the load
• never lean over the side of the trailer while on a tray or trailer to anchor chains; always do this from the ground
• if essential to stand on the load to tension chains, stand in the centre of the truck or trailer and arrange the load binder in such a way that if you do slip, you don’t fall over the edge
• do not bend over to pick up material or equipment from the trailer deck as this may cause a rush of blood to the head and a potential overbalance and fall
• avoid climbing over tarped products as there could be gaps underneath that could cause a trip or overbalance and fall over the side
• never jump on or off a trailer or between trailers, platforms or docks, or from forklifts or cranes, as this is extremely dangerous and could result in a serious injury.
There are also a growing number of safety innovations available designed to prevent falls from trucks and trailers.
These include MaxiTrans’ extendable flat top semi-trailer, with a gap-less walkway eliminating the risk of falling between gaps. It costs around $4,000 more than a standard trailer, and earned steel company OneSteel, and road transport equipment firm MaxiTrans a safety improvement award in 2013.
Another innovation is the Metropolitan Express-designed Fall Prevention Safety Trailer (FPSS). It has tautliner-style canvas sides that make it almost impossible for workers to fall off. The sides can be lowered for loading then raised when a driver or loader is arranging and restraining the cargo.
It also has safety features that are becoming more common in the industry, including a beeper alert activated by a forklift or pedestrian moving across the trailer’s rear. Another is a radar-controlled device that stops the trailer from reversing if an object is detected in its path.
To contact WorkCover NSW, call 13 10 50 or visit our website.