Trucking can be a hazardous profession for drivers – and that’s before the driver has even set foot in the cab or put the vehicle in gear. While fleets focus much of their attention on minimizing risks on the road, there are also risks when a driver is on his or her feet as well, due to the risk of a fall.
In fact, slips, trips and falls may be the industry’s most overlooked and underappreciated threat to drivers’ health and wellbeing. Before developing our new online course on fall protection, we looked at how big the issue was – and it’s big. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 27 percent of injuries in the truck transportation industry came from slips, trips and falls. However, only 17 percent of injuries were sustained in a collision or other motor-vehicle related incidents.
Fleet managers who want to keep their drivers safe now have an opportunity to make a significant difference. Most injuries can be prevented with a little investment and following common-sense practices.
Invest in Feet: Don’t underestimate the value of your drivers’ feet. They use their feet every day to climb in and out of cabs, walk around shipping yards and help move objects. They need the best protection possible, and that does not come with cowboy boots, rubber overshoes or flipflops! Providing a shoe allowance for drivers to obtain steel-toed, ANSI-certified safety shoes will help protect their feet, and help protect you in the long run.
Jumping is for Trampolines: Some drivers have the bad habit of jumping from the backs of trailers, loading docks and their cabs. It may seem like a short distance, but every time you jump down from even a short height, your body has to absorb the impact of the landing. The higher up you are, the higher the impact. Your joints and lower back will most likely be taking the root of the punishment. As drivers age, those jolts to the joints will catch up to them, unless they don’t injure themselves beforehand by landing the wrong way.
It’s not just about bad habits, though. If your equipment isn’t properly maintained and repaired, these slips and falls can occur because of missing or damaged steps and hand-holds. Check that drivers are both reporting these defects and getting a proper response from the shop.
Put it in a Pocket: Of course, the alternative to jumping is to climb using three points of contact. It may take a couple of seconds longer, but worth it in the long run when compared to the cost and time lost from injuries. However, when drivers are carrying tools or a phone, it may be a nuisance to have both hands free.
That’s where pockets come in – one of those simple technologies that we often take for granted.
Find safety vests that have pockets to add that extra layer of convenience, and provide them to drivers as part of their personal protective equipment. It’s easy to encourage people to use pockets – but they have to be available.
Slippery When Wet: Drivers know water and ice make traction more challenging for their tires, but it’s also problematic for shoes.
Puddles of water can be hazardous when you’re unable to see how deep they are or what’s at the bottom. Wearing a good pair of safety shoes with proper treads is essential, but so is your awareness of conditions. If the weather is unfavorable, watch your step on metal surfaces such as cab steps or metal docks. If the temperature is hovering around freezing and there is snow on the ground, check for ice under the snow as well.
Drivers should also watch for other slippery substances on steps and docks, such as oil and grease. Remember that these substances might also be on your footwear as well as the surface you’re walking on. For fleet managers, having a policy about keeping your site clean and clear of fuel or oil spills is essential. Everyone needs to understand and follow it.
Knowledge of Equipment: Incorrectly using equipment can be as much as a threat as a patch of ice or an oil spill at a metal shop.
Fall arrest harnesses, for example, have to be inspected and worn correctly. An improperly worn harness not only won’t protect you, but it can actually cause injury in the case of a fall. Train drivers on how to use them. Ask drivers to demonstrate that they can inspect and don the harness properly with a qualified trainer who can give them feedback.
Bottom line: slips, trips and falls are a clear and present danger to your drivers and to your company when it comes to injury claims. To truly have a partnership with your drivers in keeping them safe, think about these two things: how have you educated drivers on how to reduce the risk, and more importantly, what investments have you made to help drivers avoid injury?
Jane Jazrawy is the CEO of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For.