Covering a flatbed load to protect it during transit is a common task for drivers and operators, and one that presents serious truck safety challenges.The risks workers face while manually tarping and uncovering loads range from debilitating back injuries to potentially life threatening falls.
Avoiding Back Injuries
Lifting heavy tarps onto flatbed trucks and pulling them to cover the load puts strain on the lower back and shoulders, and is a major concern in flatbed trucking. Back injuries from lifting and pulling tarps could result in permanent disability for truck drivers as well as workers’ compensation claims of over $500,000, according to KeepTruckingSafe.com, a resource provided by the state of Washington’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. The website includes an interactive tarping simulation as well as case studies that examine these truck safety concerns.
One way to prevent these injuries is to use an overhead tarping system that lifts and spreads the tarp over the flatbed. The operator simply connects the tarp to the spreader bar, which is suspended from an overhead track. Using a powered winch system and hand-held control, it’s easy for the operator to spread the tarp across the entire flatbed without leaving the ground and without straining.
Flatbed Fall Prevention
When employees walk on top of a flatbed truck to tarp the load, they also risk falling from the truck. Positioning a heavy, cumbersome tarp is one of the most dangerous tasks for a truck driver, as they try to navigate uneven loads and obstacles in a limited walking space. The risk is even higher when working in wet, icy or windy conditions.
The best way to prevent falls during tarping is for workers to avoid climbing onto the flatbed. As discussed earlier, an overhead tarping system offers a safer way to cover an entire flatbed trailer, since it eliminates the risks of standing or walking on the trailer itself.
Combining Safety Equipment And Driver Training
The first step is choosing the right safety equipment for your work site, which may include tarping systems, access platforms and portable handrails. But for these tools to be effective, it’s essential to also provide safety training for drivers and operators.
Here are three areas to cover in your training:
- Product Education
The products that must be transported on flatbed trucks are often bulky and irregular in shape – from roof joists to coils to machinery. Make sure to educate drivers and operators on the challenges of securing your products safely. Straps and/or chains, for example, should only be used at locations where the load is supported to prevent damage. Provide your drivers with guidelines as to when they should stop during their trips to redo the chains or restraints that are keeping the product in place.
- Fall Protection
The vast majority of sites don’t provide fall protection training. Make sure your drivers are trained to wear hard hats secured with chin straps, and to use any of the fall protection and prevention equipment you have in place. When used properly, fall protection could mean the difference between life and death.
- Site Conditions
Another aspect of flatbed truck safety is to pay attention to the conditions. Train drivers on the logistics and traffic flow of your plant, and on appropriate procedures for tarping in inclement weather.
Your company can’t afford the injuries from unsafe tarping – and neither can your drivers. While throughput goals often push people to rush when loading and unloading, safety doesn’t need to impact your efficiency, as long as you provide the proper safety equipment and training.
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