Back To FAQ Topics

Is fall protection necessary in the trucking industry for people who work on or around tank trailers pulled by a tractor? Are they necessary for loading and unloading and working on them? What standard should be used? When the trucks are unloading they may be at a terminal where there are platforms on both sides of the trailer. Some times they are in the open with nothing other than the trailer and the catwalk on top. These trailers are normally designed with a set of steps at the rear and a catwalk on the top of the tank for the driver to walk on usually from the front to the rear of the trailer. As well on the top there may be and probably will be lidded openings for the driver to either open or close when he fills with product. I hope this gives you a good explanation of what the driver experiences when loading or unloading and the conditions that they may be in.
Our opinion is generally yes, but there are some functions of a truck/trailer where the answer is yes at a depot and no when in the field – it depends on the industry. Note: in recent years the Stand Fast device mounted to the top of the tank truck/trailer has provided fall protection at many sites. There is no standard except good engineering practice. Each supplier has its own set of specifications. Ellis Fall Safety Solutions can provide an oversight or fall protection sytem design. We recently designed protection for an operation involving trucks that brought in feed for cat food that was probed for temperature variations and humidity sometimes remotely and sometimes manually. We provided a design for overhead engineered horizontal lifeline in the unloading bay. SRL’s were tag lined and accessed from the floor (pulled to one side for stowing). Prior to this the operators climbed the back of the truck to access and climb in. More importantly during clean up with an empty tank truck (or trailer) hopper, drivers would walk the perimeter with no protection sweeping with long brushes. They had to use this harness system for safety on their premises.

I am wondering if you might help us. I have been asked by an independent trucker to give him some advice on fall protection when tarping a flatbed semi load. He is an owner/operator, who is leased to a third party. He picks up and delivers at various docks and sites across the nation. His question is “What fall protection is required?” and “Who is responsible to ensure it’s done?”. I suggested that he should take measures to keep himself safe, no matter who he feels is required to suffer the expense. He says he’s unwilling to ‘foot the bill’, but of course, the companies he picks up from aren’t either. No one wants the expense or the liability. I spoke with my supervisor and we’re doing some investigation, which led me to Dr. Ellis’ “31 July 2003 OSHA Docket Office Docket S-029 Room N2625 USDOL 200 Constitution Ave Washington DC 20210 Walking Working Surfaces and PPE (Fall Protection Systems)” article. I understand your point about applying the General Duty Clause to cover it. Do you know of any specific times an OSHA or DOT regulation has been used in these cases? Now, here’s a question, even assuming using “General Duty” to cite it, which company would be the employer? At OSHA we’re concerned about the employer, as the employer bears the brunt of the responsibility. So, would it be the recipient, the shipper, the leasing agency, or the owner/operator himself? Any opinion you may have would be welcome.
I will forward a tarping article on fall deaths and injuries from flatbeds that I helped write in 2006 which is under review by a safety magazine for possible publication. This article is not for distribution by anyone at this time. It is only for review. The jurisdiction is based on Mallard Bay Drilling case (Google US Supreme Court Mallard Bay Drilling for a brief), and limited use of 4b1 of the OSHA Act to sustain jurisdiction of another agency that has taken to action to promulgate standards and enforce those standards. The DOT and its many agencies around trucking is no different from the US Coastguard (then also DOT) that has failed to protect workers on stationary vehicles. Along with tarping, tie-down, access to flat beds comes car carriers – solutions are being presented to OSHA SHIB this week. A large drywall manufacturer outside Phoenix needs to get real about shipping it goods; a recent Arizona state court dimissed a negligence case against them which is up on appeal currently. The article promotes some uses of fall protection that may help solve the independent trucker if he has a few dollars. The independent truckers are most at risk in America because they cannot report their own deaths so BLS deaths are way off currently. We are initially planning to work with a fleet of 650 trucks to promote a fall arrest system. The shippers have a lot of control and stand to lose a lot through negligence suits since they require tarping of their loads. Consignees have less control and this is where the flatbed trucker needs his own system.

Can you tell me more about Fall Protection for road workers climbing up and into dump trucks for adjusting tarps, loads, shoveling sand, salt etc.?
Some suggestions: 1. There is a proper level of maintenance for automatic or manual tarps on these vehicles. 2. Specifications for new trucks to have automatic tarps. 3. Climbing up – need for toe space exceeding 3″ preferably 7″ and a need for rungs that are “round” for hands to grasp in case of a foot slipping 4. Access to the elevated truck bed by passing under the back gate is inadvisable.

A dairy client/agent contacted me regarding the exposure they have when an independent milk hauler delivers their milk product and uses the dairy’s equipment to sanitize their owned trucks. This creates a slip and fall exposure and they are looking to have all milk haulers sign a “waiver” noting they are using this facility and equipment at their own risk and agree to hold this dairy Harmless from this exposure. In addition, a typical (contractor) milk tanker driver will come to this dairy and climb on top of the tanker truck to assist with transferring milk. About 10 years ago a driver fell off a tanker truck and sustained a fatal head injury. There is a difference of opinion in that the client has contended it is the responsibility of the contractor driver to wear fall protection. My contention is that the dairy should dictate/mandate all necessary safety equipment for those on premises. I believe the dairy should be requiring/enforcing that adequate fall protection be used. NOTE: I do not believe the approach of a HH Agreement should be the sole remedy for Loss Control but should be in conjunction with the fall protection. Has anyone worked with a dairy that has installed a fall protection traversing system that encompasses fall protection and accommodates mobility across the top of a tanker? Any pics, associated costs or insights will be greatly appreciated.
The answer partially depends on the state and its appeal court or supreme court decisions about controlling employer duties. If the cleaning is mandated by the property owner or longstanding then the invitee must generally be protected by systems provided by the property owner assuming a system exists and confined space hazards are avoided. Dairies always are wet and being washed down daily, ladders and tanks etc. corrode quickly. A cleaning bay or several bays can use T-posts or L posts for horizontal rails or stainless cables for harness systems. Alternatively a push up catwalk system may be practical on one or both sides and PFAS used if a hazard still exists with overhead anchor. Some mobile stair systems can be pushed in place with a smooth floor and a suitable railing. Check the truck safety page and links on this web site for trailer fall protection ideas which is becoming a huge business in the USA.

Been looking at installing 4 to 5 flatbed truck fall protection systems. We have narrowed the search down to an overhead tie off system (for the driver) vs. a platform system that is moved (ie automatically or manually) close to the sides of the flatbed trailer so the driver cannot fall off the side of the truck (ie while tarping etc.). As you know, there are pluses and minuses associated with each system. One big minus on the overhead tie off system is that the drivers will not always be trained on the use of harnesses etc. One big minus on the platforms is that some of our loads will be higher than 4’ from the bed of the truck; which means even a fall from the top of the load to the platform could be high risk. My question is, what are most companies in the US doing for flatbed fall protection? Is one type of system considered better (less risky) than the others? Your comments would be helpful.
You are on the right track with a PFAS and also a platform system. You can require both – start thinking of reducing fall hazards with two solutions. Check MacCollum’s book Construction Safety Engineering Principles for his grid approach – McGraw Hill. Your training problem is a liability – you have got to make it a culture with top person interest. We can help round out your issues and focus on your positive steps moving forward. Now the question for each industry is who will lead?

I have recently gone through your FP competent person training course and need your advice for FP on a loading dock for a typical distribution warehouse. When a truck is not backed up to a loading dock and the roll up door is open which type of passive fall protection is required? Would it be simply a chain set at 42” which can withstand the pressure of 200lbs?
What would be required would be a railing that conforms to the guardrail standard. This includes strength and midrail requirements. A chain would not be acceptable.