Flatbed falls are flat out avoidable

Between 2003 and 2012 there were 15 fatalities due to falls from trucks. The road freight transport industry has a high incidence of injury, in particular those injuries resulting from muscular stress, handling objects and falls from trucks.

These account for 44 per cent of claims and, with 158,000 workers employed in road and freight across NSW, it pays to be aware of the risks.

Responsibility for safety in this industry often falls to multiple parties with many injuries occurring at worksites that aren’t controlled by the transport operator or driver.

This makes it all the more important to have everyone involved on board with safe practices.

Talking through the risks with the delivery point or the transport operator is a great first step.

Falls from flatbed trucks are usually serious, and sometimes fatal, but there are several ways to stay safe while loading and unloading flatbeds; and these tips apply to small as well as large businesses.

The best way to stay safe is to stay on the ground at a safe distance from the mobile plant during loading and unloading.

You can keep your distance from the trailer by using equipment to help you load, by pre-configuring the load to suit the equipment you’re using or, by pre-slinging the load.

If you have aids such as a lead rope or reach pole, you can also employ load restraints that are accessible from the ground.

If you can’t work from the ground, try putting a guard rail or temporary platform in place, or use a retractable ladder or step with handrails.

Remember to keep both of your feet firmly on the ladder or step.

If you need to move around on the trailer, use travel restraints and if these measures are not practical, consider using a fall arrest system.

Although a flatbed or trailer is only one to two metres off the ground, if you fall awkwardly or hit your head, the consequences are serious.

Watch this video safety alert for clear tips on how to stay safe when working with flatbed trucks and trailers.

Call 13 10 50 to get a copy of your free ‘talk before you load up’ poster.

Breaking news

This month’s Breaking News includes information about safety coaches, DHL cargo bikes and a tyre innovation by Goodyear.

Get a free personal safety coach
Road freight transport companies (with 50 or fewer employees) that operate in the Sydney metropolitan area, Newcastle, Hunter, New England or Central West areas can apply for a free safety coach. A safety coach has the skills and experience to teach you how to comply with your workplace safety and workers compensation obligations.

Your safety coach will assess your workplace and help you develop an action plan to address any safety issues. They’ll return within six weeks to see how you have progressed. Register for your free safety coach now.
By engaging a safety coach, you also become eligible for a $500 small business rebate, which will help you introduce safety solutions into your business.

Pedalling into the future of short-haul trucking
Global parcel-delivery giant DHL is introducing a new essential transporter to its fleet. The company has replaced 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes in the Netherlands, resulting in a massive reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions. Not to mention saving around $575,000 a year. Read more here.

No more flat tyres
Inflating your tyres too much can cause them to tear, while not having enough pressure can lead to punctures and damage to the suspension. With this in mind, Goodyear has created tyres that monitor pressure, and automatically inflate using just a regulator and a tube. Read more here.

Eight ways to tell your boss where to go

Your boss might well thank you if you tell them where to go to find safety problems in the workplace. While raising safety concerns can be a daunting prospect, not doing so might mean a potentially dangerous issue remains unresolved.

It could be something like worn steps on your cabin, dangerous movement of forklifts or poor housekeeping posing slip, trip and fall hazards. Or perhaps you feel that your training for a particular task was inadequate or you need more help to do it safely.

But whatever the issue, it is important to remember that every worker has a right to work in safe places and, while it is an employer’s duty to keep you safe, you are also required to do your bit. So if you think there is a health and safety problem in your workplace, it is critical that you do something about it before it is too late and an incident that could have been prevented takes place.

In most workplaces, your first port of call would be flagging a safety concern with a supervisor, health and safety or union representative, rather than the actual employer. You might feel intimidated or awkward, but the few minutes it takes to talk and hopefully find a solution is nothing compared to the impact of an injury.

When talking to a boss about safety:

  • Ask how a health and safety issue should be raised as the boss may have a hazard reporting procedure in place
  • try to sound positive and speak out of concern for you and your co-workers’ safety
  • be polite and respectful
  • avoid confrontational words
  • try not to put the boss on the spot
  • don’t blame co-workers
  • keep your body language in check – for example, don’t cross your arms or point your finger
  • if possible, suggest a potential solution for the problem you have raised.

Remember, employers need to know about workplace hazards or unsafe activity and have a duty to address these, even if a solution means a fix in terms of equipment, extra staff or training.

Your boss may end up thanking you as a safer workplace generally means one with higher worker morale and productivity, plus workers will be happier knowing the boss is watching their backs so they can go home safe to loved ones every day.

Get some more tips and advice at workcover.nsw.gov.au or call us on 13 10 50.

Knocking deck danger on the head

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.

Golden rules for a safe passage

Something as simple as getting in and out of your truck cabin each day can seem as harmless as it can be repetitive. The frightening news is that, if not done properly, it can have serious consequences. If you’re, say, 100kg and you jump to the ground from the bottom step of your cabin, it equates to a force of about 120kg. Jump from the middle step and it equates to about 500kg. Do this consistently and it slowly but surely causes wear and tear on your body.
With the day-to-day pressures of meeting deadlines for deliveries, it can be easy for drivers to forget the golden rule of maintaining three points of contact as they get in and out of the truck. This means having two hands and one foot – or two feet and one hand – on the steps and handrails at all times.

To get in and out of the truck cabin safely:

• Face the truck and maintain three points of contact at all times when entering or exiting the cabin. Maintain a balanced posture when entering or exiting your truck
• keep the soles of your shoes clean and replace footwear when the tread is worn to ensure good grip
• park in well-lit areas with an even landing surface
• don’t jump out of your truck cabin or enter and exit while holding something. You could fall or land and injure yourself
• try not to rush. This could impair your balance and increase your risk of injury

Consider installing these features if the truck does not already have them:

• non-slip surfaces on the steps
• lights on the steps
• contrasting colours for the steps and handrails, so they stand out against the truck body
• handrails either side of the cabin door.

For more advice on getting in and out of cabins, read our Safety in the road freight transport industry guide or call 13 10 50.