Safety alert issued after worker falls from trailer
Investigators are looking into an August 2020 incident in which a truck driver sustained serious injuries by falling from his trailer. WorkCover Queensland reports that the transport industry has a high rate of injuries and fatalities as a result of workers falling from trucks and trailers.
The risks of these falls are commonly associated with the design of a vehicle, the equipment used and work practices. Workers can also sustain injuries due to poorly designed ladders or steps, climbing at height to secure the load, using tyres as steps to climb onto the trailer and climbing on the top of a trailer where there are unprotected openings. Other factors associated with the risk of falls from trucks and trailers include climbing over or around oversized loads and jumping down from the trailer.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must provide and maintain a safe system of work when loading and unloading trucks. Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process, involving four steps. PCBUs must identify hazards and determine what could cause harm and assess the risks and the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. PCBUs must also control the risks by implementing the most cost-effective measure reasonably practicable in the circumstances and assessing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
Once the risks have been assessed, PCBUs must control risks associated with falls from trucks and trailers, with the control measures ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This is known as the hierarchy of control; PCBUs must work through this hierarchy and select the control which most effectively eliminates or minimises the risk.
One of the most effective risk control measures is to remove the hazard or hazardous work practice associated with workers accessing a truck or trailer when loading or unloading. This can include designing or modifying the trailer so the worker does not need to climb onto it (this could also be considered an engineering control). Where practicable, PCBUs can also arrange the load so workers do not need to climb onto the trailer.
Isolation is another effective control measure that involves separating people from vehicles and mobile plant by using barriers, fences or other similar options. Where possible, workers should not access the loading/receiving area when forklifts or other mobile plant are operating. PCBUs should also create dedicated waiting areas for truck drivers (a separate area or room) and ensure the driver does not leave the area, otherwise loading/receiving activities cease.
Engineering control measures involve changing physical characteristics of the plant or work area to remove or reduce the risk. This can include using a mobile work platform or edge protection, such as guard rails on the trailer, and using a suitable step ladder or portable handrail on the trailer. Trailer surfaces can also be modified with a slip-resistant material, while hand holds and foot holds can be installed at suitable heights and locations to allow three points of contact to be maintained.
If the risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, such as the development and implementation of a safe system of work that includes safe work procedures for drivers. This can include support for drivers to contact their depot if they have concerns with a site. Drivers must also be trained and educated on how to use the truck safely and equipped with information about new customer sites.
PCBUs should also consider using high-visibility or reflective clothing and suitable footwear, with adequate slip resistance. Adapting and implementing high-order controls such as elimination and engineering before considering administrative or PPE controls will significantly reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring. Control measures should also be reviewed regularly to ensure they work as planned.
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