Covering the loads on flatbed trucks with tarps can help to protect cargo against rain and wind damage. Additionally, tarps can be used to secure lightweight items or to prevent grit on the road from damaging delicate materials. In the shipping field, tarps can be one of the most useful tools in protecting and retaining cargo on open-top or flatbed trailers. However, installing these protective coverings can pose serious risks to workers who are responsible for tarping flatbed and open-top cargo carriers. Lack of proper safety equipment and failure to provide workers with effective fall protection systems can lead to serious accidents and injuries during the process of securing flatbed loads with tarps. A flatbed tarping fall protection system is the best solution to protect employees from fall injuries.
Increased Risk of Falls
When manually installing a tarp over a load on a flatbed trailer, most workers must walk around on the load or balance carefully on the edges of the trailer. Both of these strategies are extremely risky and entail an elevated risk of falls for these workers. Pallet loads, for instance, are often covered in plastic and can be slippery even when perfectly dry. With the addition of humid air or light rain, these plastic-wrapped cargo loads can become an accident just waiting to happen for the worker tarping the trailer. Most flatbeds have wood floors and metal frames that can become slick with repeated wear, making them unsafe for workers to stand on or to climb. Although the heights involved in these activities are not extreme, the risk of injury or fatality for workers can be much higher due to the slick surfaces and increased potential for falls in these areas.
Even a Short Fall Can Kill
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigated a January 11, 1994, falling accident that resulted in the death of a 54-year-old male worker in New Jersey. Although the fall itself was only eight feet, the worker sustained severe head trauma and died at the hospital on the following day. Modern fall arrest systems are designed to stop falls at the six-foot mark or higher; this is due to the higher risks involved in falls from a greater height. The NIOSH report recommended tarping in teams of two and instituting added safety measures at the site. Ideally, however, the tarping process should be managed without requiring workers to climb on top of the trailer at all.
A Better Way to Tarp
No-climb tarping systems can provide added protection for workers and can prevent potentially deadly falls. Automatic truck tarping systems offer a number of other benefits for employers:
- Spending less time on manual tarping tasks can provide increased productivity in the workplace environment. This can save money on staffing costs and can boost profitability for most companies.
- Staying off loaded trailers can prevent unintentional damage and can allow companies to deliver products in optimal condition for sale or use.
- Automated tarping systems provide uniform coverage for each load to reduce the risk of these coverings coming loose en route to their destinations.
Installing a powered tarping system is a solid investment in worker safety that will pay benefits in reduced accidents, improved quality and increased productivity and profitability.
Modern Tarping Systems
Depending on the company’s needs, most powered tarp application systems incorporate remote control devices that allow workers to apply the tarp while remaining safely on the ground. A powerful electrical winch is used to guide the tarp and to pull it securely over the length of the loaded trailer while a spreader bar ensures that the tarp is positioned properly to cover both sides of the load. Platforms and stairs can also be included to allow manual adjustments; however, fall protection devices and fall arrest system inspection procedures must be used if workers will be more than six feet above ground during these adjustments.
Powered tarping systems are a cost-effective way to ensure that workers stay safe and that loads are properly secured and protected against damage. By implementing these advanced systems, companies can provide a safer working environment and can avoid the unwanted costs of injuries and accidents on the job.