Archive for category hazard assessment

Have you considered a Safety Stand-Down?

By Jena Williams

A worker falling from a loading dock.

The Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls is in full swing at Washington State’s construction sites (May 4-15), but is a relevant topic for the trucking industry as well.

 What is a Safety Stand-Down? A Safety Stand Down is when you take a break from normal work activities to call a quick meeting with all workers to focus on a workplace safety topic – in this case, preventing falls.

Falls from elevation account for 11% of the injuries to Washington’s trucking industry workers and 16% of the costs to the workers’ compensation system for the industry.

According to our recent report, the majority of the falls are attributable to:

  • Entering/exiting the truck cab.
  • Falling off the back of the trailer or the liftgate.
  • Missing a step or getting a foot caught in a rung of a ladder (both attached to a truck and freestanding).
  • Ladders slipping out from underneath a worker.

It’s worth it to take the time to problem-solve fall hazards at your company.

Think of ways to engineer fall hazards out of your workplace. For example, there are a variety aftermarket tools available to equip your forklift to assist with tarping to keep workers off the load.  Check to see if there is an aftermarket gauge that can be used to check tank-trailers instead of requiring drivers to check manually from the top.

Get workers thinking about safety by asking them to point out the hazards they see and suggest ways to mitigate them.

During your Safety Stand-Down, ask drivers to check the treads on their boots to see if wear might cause a slip on the cab steps. Also check the tread on the cab steps and make sure the steps themselves are securely fastened. Stress again the importance of 3 points-of-contact and checking the ground for debris, oil or potholes before exiting the cab.

What interventions have you implemented at your company to prevent falls? We’d like to hear about them and how your Safety Stand-Down went. Please share your stories in the comments.

Additional fall prevention resources are available on our website at:

You can print these safety posters to post around your business. They can be printed on either letter-sized or 11”x17” sized paper.

Don’t fall for it!

Wear the footwear of the pros!

Why climbing technique matters

Consider the length of your career

Look before you leap

The tool you use for climbing matters

Don’t fall for it! (loading dock)

Keep up the good work! Together we can prevent injuries in trucking.

Safety Director shares how their company became a model of worksite safety and health

By Jena Williams

Gary Fitzmorris, Director of Safety & Compliance, Harbor Wholesale Foods

Gary Fitzmorris, Director of Safety & Compliance, Harbor Wholesale Foods

Thirty years at a family-owned company where you started out stocking shelves can give you a lot of perspective. You go from being the insecure, new kid to becoming a seasoned employee. You see personalities come and go, but most importantly, the company becomes your extended family. When Gary Fitzmorris took over as the Director of Safety & Compliance at Harbor Wholesale Foods he wanted more than safety rhetoric to protect this company.

Getting started

Gary looked for opportunities to mine the wisdom of workers and leverage the tools already available. At locations in both Lacey, Washington, and Roseburg, Oregon, he incorporated Keep Trucking Safe training materials and simulations into his new hire and refresher training programs. In Oregon, he took advantage of a specialized program designed by Oregon OSHA to develop an “exemplary injury and illness prevention program.” This required inviting their consultation program in and agreeing to correct all hazards they might find, among other requirements. Recently, in response to their dedication to safety, Harbor Wholesale Foods (Roseburg) was recognized as a model for worksite safety and health by the Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)* administered by Oregon OSHA.

Getting buy-in

Gary believes employee involvement and management support is what makes their safety program successful. One program that was developed at their Oregon location and is soon to be implemented in Washington is the Bi-Quarterly Safety & Information meeting. He says each meeting is 5-15 minutes long and includes all employees on a shift. It’s designed to be an open forum for discussion of anything safety-related.

He admits that at first, the meetings were pretty quiet, but they just kept having them and over time ideas and suggestions started coming in. One example of a cheap and easy fix that came from a safety issue brought to the company’s attention through these meetings was the development of a reach hook. The problem was that when boxes got caught up on the gravity rollers, workers would need to climb up on the racks to get them to slide down. To prevent the need to climb and the resulting fall hazard, they engineered a reach hook so workers could stand on the ground while moving the merchandise forward.

Reach hook engineered and made in-house.

Reach hook engineered and made in-house.

Reach hook nudging a hung up box down the rollers.

Reach hook nudging a hung up box down the rollers.

Gary noticed increased engagement by the workers when they saw him make good on his commitment to address all issues or topics that are brought up and report back on the status at the next meeting.

Gary appreciates the very important role the safety committee has in identifying and addressing safety concerns at their distribution centers. He believes that the safety committee is the backbone of the safety program. Their safety committee is made up of a diverse group of employees representing all aspects of the operation. Safety issues identified by the committee are quickly assigned to be addressed by the person or department best suited for the topic. As with the Bi-Quarterly meetings all issues are followed up on. Supporting documents follow a reported issue from the time it is reported until it is reviewed at the next monthly safety committee meeting. This includes making sure the person who brought up the concern is informed of the resolution.

Before making a change

Gary and the safety committee run new equipment purchases and work methods through a change analysis (reviewing the pros and cons of the new method or equipment) to thoroughly consider changes before implementing them to make sure no new hazards are created. If there are new hazards discovered, they are carefully analyzed to determine if the change eliminates more risk than it creates. Every employee that works in the area or could be impacted is included in the change analysis.

The whole company wins when safety becomes a core value shared by everyone.

Free safety training materials are available at


*Not affiliated with Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program in Washington.

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Tarping tips from Santa

By Jena Williams

Santa has safely performed billions of on-time deliveries and stayed injury-free for over 1,600 years. “How?” you ask?  Because he has mastered the art of safely tarping his sleigh, of course!

Allow Santa to give you some tips and you’ll be safely on your way, too!

Click image to try simulation.

Click image to try simulation.

Link to Santa’s safe-tarping simulation:

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Excerpt from: A Visit from St. Nicholas by CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

Are electric pallet jacks worth the investment?

By Jena Williams

Electric pallet jack

Electric pallet jack

Recently we were contacted by Bill Smith, Safety and Compliance Manager at Brown Line. They were considering replacing some of their manual pallet jacks with the electric equivalent because they wanted to prevent injuries to their drivers. Bill asked to partner with us because he wanted hard numbers to determine if the safety tradeoff was worth the financial investment.

Keep Trucking Safe staff, including Stephen Bao, one of the ergonomists on our team, met Bill and his team at their loading dock in Mount Vernon to collect data on forces involved in using pallet jacks that were carrying loads ranging from 1,500-2,500 lbs. Stephen used a biomechanical modeling method to calculate load forces on different body parts of the worker during various tasks.

The tasks studied included pumping the pallet jack, pushing or pulling the jack to get it moving, and turning the jack both in the grooved trailer and in the warehouse. Stephen also measured the forces involved in pulling/pushing the pallet jack with a 1,500 lb. load over the dock plate (threshold heights of 2.5 and 5 inches).

As you might assume, these tasks were quite effortless when performed using an electric pallet jack.

Of the tasks tested, the most stressful on the body was pulling the manual pallet jack out of the trailer and up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate. This task was rated at so high a risk to the wrist, elbow, shoulder and ankles by the biomechanical analysis software that likely no one in the general population can perform the task without some injury to these body parts. There was also significant pressure placed on the low back.1

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate.

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate requires 175 lbs. of force.

The next most difficult task was turning a loaded pallet jack inside a trailer with a grooved floor. This task produced a very high risk of injury to the knee, ankle and wrist with a 2,000 lb. load. Lighter loads significantly reduced the injury risk.

If the decision to use electric or manual pallet jacks were just one of injury risk, electric pallet jacks would definitely be the way to go, but as we know there is more to the story.


There is no force on the body to maneuver a fully-loaded electric pallet jack.

Electric pallet jacks cost about $4,000-$5,000 each and require weekly maintenance and battery replacement ($200-$300) after a few hundred hours. A fully charged battery lasts about 8 hours so there is also the concern that a driver could run out of power.

Maneuvering a fully loaded manual pallet jack.

Pumping the handle of a fully-loaded manual pallet jack requires the application of over 70 lbs. of force. This is a high risk task for the hands and wrists of most people.

Manual pallet jacks cost about $400 each and require quarterly maintenance. Battery replacement isn’t required; however shoulder, wrist or ankle or driver replacement can be significant.

What do I mean by significant?

Consider that each year, 1 out of 13 truck drivers has a work-related injury that results in a lost work time workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, the most common type of injury is a strain, sprain or overexertion, which can result from the types of forces we identified. The median cost of these types of injuries to truck drivers is about $13,000.2 It’s much cheaper to get the electric pallet jack and replace a battery than a driver. In addition, electric pallet jacks can complete a loading job much faster than a manual one so productivity increases, too.

The decisions employers and safety directors make involving investing in safer tools and equipment can feel daunting. It helps to have the numbers in front of you and to draw on the experience of others. Bill mentioned that Brown Line was planning to target the routes with the most hills or heaviest pallet deliveries for the electric pallet jacks and if those worked out they might consider the using them with the rest of the fleet.

We all want to keep our valued workers safe and working. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with electric pallet jacks in the comments.



  1. Results of biomechanical analysis study at Brown Line, Mount Vernon, Washington, Stephen Bao, PhD, CPE, based on measurements taken on May 27, 2014.
  2. Rauser, Smith and Williams 2014. Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, 2006-2012. SHARP Program, report #90-148-2014. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, Washington.


Rain, rain, go away!

By Jena Williams


It looks like the rain isn’t going anywhere for a long while here in western Washington.

This morning a colleague relayed her commute into work to me – pouring rain, everyone driving crazy fast, cutting off trucks and each other; in other words, driving too fast for conditions. I get that Washingtonians feel impervious to rain and pride themselves on the idea that sheets of rain will not affect their driving.

I wish that were true. The fact of the matter is that wet roads have less traction as confirmed by the Federal Highway Administration and your own common sense. This means that unless you are a member of the Fast and Furious crew and have the help of Hollywood to defy the laws of nature, you will need extra stopping time.

So slow down and give trucks and yourself extra room to stop. Let’s all keep it safe out there.

Test your tire chaining knowledge

By Jena Williams

Click photo to access tire chaining challenge.

Click photo to access tire chaining challenge.

You’ve got chains, but do you know how to use them? Prove it to yourself by testing your knowledge with this fun simulation. Compare the novice and professional drivers as they chain up their tires. See if you can find all 10 differences.

If you’ve been driving for a while, share your advice in the comments below to help newer drivers prepare for winter.

Now is also the time to inspect your chains before you find yourself on a snowy mountain pass. Here are tire chaining tips to get you started.

Tire chaining simulation:

Tips for hanging iron:

Tips for inspecting your chains:

Being prepared is not just for Boy Scouts

By Jena Williams


Whether you are beginning to dread the impending cooler weather or eagerly awaiting the fall colors, we all have to admit that summer is wrapping up and the days are getting shorter. This is a good time to prepare for darker days by checking your high-visibility clothing. If your vest or jacket has disappeared somewhere behind the seat, now is the perfect time to find it, and make sure it is still in good condition.

Now is also a good time to check or change the batteries in your flashlight, replenish your emergency food and water supplies and stock an extra set of warm clothes. This truck driver’s winter survival kit lists the essentials to have in your truck. Being prepared will help keep you safe.

Here are more ideas for preparing for severe weather:

Slip prevention, a topic for summer

By Jena Williams

Worn diamond plate has been repaired with a slip-resistant cover.

Worn diamond plate has been repaired with a slip-resistant cover.

Now, before fall rains and winter ice, is the perfect time to evaluate and maintain the non-slip surfaces on courier steps, loading docks, ladders and cab and trailer entry points. Take advantage of the dry conditions to apply anti-slip treads and tape.

Slick concrete in warehouses and loading docks can be re-coated with anti-slip surfaces as well. Worn diamond plate steps can be re-treaded and loose steps re-welded.

Have you considered investing in canopies for your loading docks to prevent rain accumulation on the surface? My guess is that you can negotiate a better deal from suppliers during this, their slow time.

Injury prevention doesn’t get a summer vacation, but you can use the hot summer sun to your advantage and get the jump on slip and fall prevention for the rest of the year.

This fun training simulation tests the co-efficient of friction in relation to slips and falls:

Saved by the handhold

By Jena Williams

Entering cab using 3 points of contact

Have you ever wondered if retro-fitting trucks or trailers with handholds are worth the investment? After talking with many injured workers, we can assure you that they are. A well placed handhold can make the difference between an injury and a non-event.

Some tips

Keep it consistent: People are creatures of habit and muscles have memory. The more consistently placed the handles, the more likely people are to reach for (and depend on) a handhold, rather than grab for a phantom handle.

More is better: This is true in more than one way. 1) Put handles on both sides of trailers, not just one. 2) If a shorter or taller worker needs a different location, add another handle rather than moving the one that is there so that if drivers slip-seat, a new driver won’t be injured.

Ask for feedback: Ask workers if the handle placement is working for them or if there are changes that need to be made. Asking questions like this opens up communication lines and improves the safety culture of the company.

This is also a good opportunity to remind workers to use 3 points-of-contact. Below are links to materials to help.

Often small investments in safety can make a huge difference in injury prevention.


Links to trailer/cab entry and exit training

Printable materials:

Online simulation:

Preventing and treating heat exhaustion

By Jena Williams


As high temperatures continue, it’s important to stay vigilant in preventing and treating heat-related illness. Since truck drivers generally work alone and their health can affect others on the road, it’s important that they keep hydrated by drinking non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day.

Sip water frequently because by the time you feel thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may already be experiencing heat exhaustion:

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Muscle cramping
  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

What You Should Do:

  • Move to a cooler location.
  • Call someone to let them know the situation.
  • Lie down and loosen your clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
  • Sip water.
  • If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which is life threatening.

Most importantly, don’t keep working your shift until you get your symptoms under control. Your safety is more important than your delivery. If your symptoms don’t subside call 911.

Source: CDC