In the trucking business, loading and unloading of equipment and other types of cargo are part of regular routine. If not properly managed, these activities can become a source of work-related injuries and even fatalities. It’s important to identify what could possibly go wrong during loading and unloading and know how to properly deal with the situation.

1. Load associated risks

It is inherent in the business to tackle different types of loads. As each load is different, the potential risks involved in loading and unloading them may also differ. Before you start loading, it’s important to look for potential problems with your load. Is it too light or heavy, narrow, tall or loose? Will it easily shift in transit? These are just some of the questions that you need to ask yourself. You can then plan your procedures on how to safely get the loads on and off your flatbed.

2. Pinch points and crush hazards

Pinch points commonly affect the fingers and hands but may also impact other areas of the body. Pinch points and crush injuries may be as minor as blisters to severe amputation and even death.

If you are directly involved in the loading and unloading process, be aware of pinch points and crush hazards. If possible, keep your hands off of the cargo especially while it is still being moved and instead, utilize hands-free tools and taglines for assisting in moving the load.

3. Load shifting during transit

Even if you properly secured your load, there is still that big chance that it will settle of shift during transit due to instability, irregular shape of the cargo and other factors. This in turn could pose possible hazards when the chains or straps are removed during unloading. The cargo may collapse and those in close proximity are at risk of being struck.

Safety measures:

  • Check the load securement at regular intervals during your trip and make adjustments if needed.
  • Upon arrival at the destination and before taking the load off the trailer, discuss the potential risks with others involved in the unloading process. Everyone should understand the standard procedure.
  • If using a forklift, everyone on foot should not stay near or on the opposite side of the truck from a forklift.

4. Gaps and drop-offs in the loading or unloading area

If you are manually loading or unloading the cargo, it can be difficult to see where you are stepping in. If there’s a gap or drop-off on your way, you’ll most likely not see it. This creates a potential risk for a fall injury. A good rule of thumb is to first secure or cover gaps and drop-offs before you start moving the load.

5. Uneven surface for loading or unloading area

In some situations, there might be no available even surface where you could park to load or unload. If parked on an uneven surface, there is a risk that the truck and trailer will move downhill while still loading or unloading. As a safety precaution, no one should be downhill of the vehicle. You also have to use vehicle restraint devices to prevent the truck or trailer from moving. Most importantly, engage your parking brakes.

Additional safety tips during loading and unloading:

  • Wear high visibility vests whenever you need to assist in moving the load to and from your trailer.
  • If possible, secure the load while you are on the ground. Climbing on the trailer or cargo is a common cause for trips, slips and falls.
  • Check your straps and chains regularly for any sign of damage. Damaged units can cause accidents when they break.
  • Keep your mobile device if you are involved in moving the cargo. These devices can cause distractions that can lead to accidents.
  • Establish safety operating procedures for the different types of loads you regularly handle.

While loading and unloading have associated risks, knowing what they are and how to handle them can make a big difference in terms of safety. It could save your life.