Don’t Take the Fall

Performing a risk assessment to minimize potential falls while working on trucks.

March 6, 2013

3 Min Read
Don’t Take the Fall

By Matt Gartner, XL Specialty Insurance Co.

Waste haulers are not sedentary workers. Their jobs often require getting out and on top of their trucks. As a result, many serious injuries and fatalities have occurred while working from tops of trucks. Last spring a 40-year-old sanitation worker in Peekskill, N.Y., died after suffering severe head injuries from a fall off the back of a truck when it pulled away from a stop sign.

To control general liability and workers’ compensation costs, and keep drivers safer, attention for fall prevention is a wise risk management investment.

The first step in minimizing the risk of fall hazards is to perform a risk assessment for the tasks involving work on top of trucks or rolling stocks. The risk assessment should consider two factors:

• The nature and duration of the task being performed.

• The physical surroundings and conditions in which the task is performed.

It is also important to consider what equipment, tools or materials will be used in performing the task. Once the fall hazards have been identified and assessed, consider the following fall protection alternatives:

• Working at ground level when possible.

• Installing platforms and guardrails.

• Using mobile or fixed loading platforms.

• Deploying personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) and fall restraint systems.

• Hatch Platform and PFAS

Many vehicles have been designed or modified so that drivers are not forced to work at heights of more than six feet. Tasks should be reviewed to determine if working at heights or on top of trucks or rolling stocks can be rendered safer by performing the same task, or part of the task, from ground level or from a solid platform with guardrails.

If this is not possible, consider the feasibility of permanent or temporary work platform or guardrail attached to truck or trailer. Guardrails on vehicles are becoming more common and popular. Where there are height or width restrictions during transport, guardrails are often designed to fold away until needed. Another limitation that should be considered when evaluating the feasibility of this alternative is weight restrictions.

For sites that receive regular deliveries, ensure that adequate access facilities, such as an elevated work platform (fixed or mobile), are available when loading/unloading materials or re-filling/re-fueling tanks. In many instances, a mobile elevated work platform will be a cost effective solution. There are various designs available commercially.

Some worksites have overhead structural members installed that provide anchor points or cables to which the fall protection device is attached before accessing the tops of trucks. These structures are effective but rely on drivers to be suitably trained in fall protection and to use the harnesses available. Some trucks have integrated anchor points or cables in the container or trailer design, which allow drivers to clip a harness on and perform the task with reduced risk of falling to the ground. Either a PFAS or fall restraint system may be used. However, fall restraint systems are preferred over PFAS since a fall restraint system does not allow the person to move beyond a designated point where they can fall.

A PFAS should only be used where fall restraint devices, guard railing or elevated or mobile work platforms are not practical and where a person can be rescued immediately in the event of a fall.

Since falls often occur due to slipping while standing on top of a rolling stock while performing a task, another consideration is to the installation of a platform installed at frequent work locations to provide a level, non-slip work surface. If guardrails (either temporary or permanent) cannot be installed, a PFAS should also be used where feasible.

Simple investments and careful planning can go a long way in keeping drivers, and their employers, on their feet.


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