November 19, 2012
By Bruce Hooker of Mattei Insurance Services
As discussed last month in part one of this article, falls from waste trucks and from mobile equipment such as loaders and excavators occur frequently in the waste and recycling industry. These falls have led to millions of dollars worth of workers’ compensation claims being paid out each year.
Part one of the article discussed two of the four situations where these falls are most likely to occur: falls while climbing into or getting out of the cab of a truck or piece of equipment, and falls of collection employees who are riding on the outside of a moving truck. This article deals with falls from a roll-off truck or transfer trailer while tarping or adjusting the load, and falls from the top of a compaction truck while cleaning or performing maintenance.
A Tarp Too Far
Waste industry workers may have to climb on a roll-off box or transfer trailer to either tarp a load or adjust something within the load, such as a board sticking up in the air or material hanging over the side of the box or trailer. Every time this is necessary, the potential for a serious fall exists. The advent of automated tarps on most roll-off trucks and some transfer trailers has had a positive impact in reducing falls. However, falls from roll-off boxes and transfer trailers are still occurring and have lead to serious injury or death.
The best way to reduce these specific types of falls is to minimize a worker’s need to climb on top of a roll-off box or transfer trailer. Investing in automatic tarping systems for both roll-off trucks and transfer trailers can help avoid costly workers’ compensation claims while also improving efficiency. If a roll-off box must be manually tarped then it should be tarped while still on the ground. Even with an automatic tarping system for roll-offs, the tarp may still need some adjusting and an additional tarp strap is usually required on each side. Fortunately, companies such as tarpARMOR make extendable tools that allow workers to apply and remove tarp straps as well as adjust the tarp while safely on the ground.
When a worker must manually tarp a transfer trailer, the safest method is to use a tarping station, as this eliminates the need to climb up on the trailer. The ideal tarping station will have steps with handrails and a safety railing at the top. While more and more transfer stations are providing tarping stations, waste haulers and transfer operators must continue to push for a safe environment for their workers to manually tarp a transfer trailer. Again the use of expandable tools designed to apply and remove tarp straps can reduce the need for a worker to climb onto the transfer trailer.
A View to a Spill
From time to time a waste truck driver may climb on top of the truck, particularly a front-load truck, to clean debris. Similarly, maintenance personnel will of have to climb on top of a truck to perform routine maintenance and repairs. Both of these situations expose employees to the potential of a fall from a height of more than 10 feet onto a hard surface. This type of fall can lead to serious injury or death.
Because of the serious nature of falls from the top of waste trucks, the ANSI Z245 subcommittee came up with standards to help protect workers and to ensure that waste and recycling entities stay in compliance with OSHA regulations. The standards stipulate specific requirements for the ladders on front-load trucks as well as means for the worker to maintain three points of contact when reaching the top of the ladder, such as a ladder assist bar. The standards also discuss the need for fall protection for workers using a ladder if those workers are performing tasks while on the ladder that require them to have less than three points of contact with the ladder.
Just as climbing the ladder of a front-load truck is a dangerous activity, standing on top of the truck can be even more hazardous. A driver or maintenance worker can easily slip and fall off the truck onto a hard surface or into the body of the truck. For this reason the ANSI Z245 standards specify that all workers have adequate fall protection while working on top of the truck. Several companies are producing fall restraint or fall arrest products specifically designed for waste trucks. Fall protection requires the worker to put on a harness or work positioning belt and be anchored to either the truck itself or to a secure overhead anchor point such a crossbeam in a maintenance shop.
Because of the potential for serious falls and because of the requirement for fall protection when on top of the truck, a waste entity should have a written policy specifying who is allowed to climb on top of waste trucks and under what circumstances. It should also outline what safety precautions must be taken. Those employees who are permitted to climb on top of waste trucks must be given training in the safe and proper use of fall protection. Many waste entities are now prohibiting their drivers from climbing on top of waste trucks while on the route, instead providing them with extendable tools to clean debris from the top of the truck or cab canopy. Maintenance personnel will still need to access the top of the truck for maintenance and repair, but this will be done in the maintenance shop where proper fall protection can be monitored.
No waste hauler or municipal sanitation department wants to have one of its workers laid up or to pay a costly workers’ compensation claim because of a fall from a vehicle or piece of mobile equipment. Additionally no manager or supervisor wants to have to call the family of a worker that has been seriously injured or killed in a fall. Having a strategy to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of these falls will help keep employees from harm and reduce workers’ compensation claims.
Bruce Hooker works for Seattle-based Mattei Insurance Services Inc.