TRUCK DRIVERS & FALL PROTECTION LAWS

The holidays are a notoriously busy time for families and businesses alike. Whether a family has ordered gifts online or a business needs a new piece of safety equipment, people in the trucking industry are extremely busy receiving and delivering shipments at the end of the year. Along with a higher demand for deliveries via the trucking industry, many regions in the United States will begin to have colder weather patterns that can bring even more dangerous working conditions. Under OSHA 1910.66 App C, anyone who works in General Industry is required to have fall protection while working at heights of 4 feet or more. But because people who work in the trucking industry are moving from location to location, it can be difficult to pinpoint where industry regulations apply and where they do not.

WHO’S AT RISK?

The people in the trucking industry who could be exposed to a dangerous height are people who are driving flat bed trucks, tanker trucks, or any other vehicle that requires someone to access a height of 4 feet or higher during use or maintenance. When a truck’s bed is protected by guardrails or there is an enclosed trailer on the back of the truck, there is no need for workers to use fall protection. But as soon as someone needs to work in an area that exposes them to a potential fall hazard, fall protection equipment should be applied. The working location is directly associated with the laws of fall protection. 

WHERE DO WE NEED FALL PROTECTION?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are two of the organizations that have the most impact on truck drivers and their use of fall protection. OSHA is an organization that is focused on protecting the health and safety of all people across all workplace industries.  The DOT is dedicated to providing safe and efficient transportation across all forms of transportation (such as trains, planes, and automobiles).

When a truck driver needs to access a vehicle that would expose them to a hazardous height in a building or in a parking lot of a business, OSHA requires the use of fall protection. OSHA law protects anyone who is on the property of a business. Please note that there are different requirements for different industries. For General Industry, OSHA requires that workers exposed to a height of 4 feet or higher have fall protection equipment. However, within the Construction Industry, OSHA requires fall protection for workers who are exposed to heights of 6 feet or higher.

For example, if a truck driver picks up I-Beams at a manufacturing plant in a flat bed truck, they will need to wear fall protection while they are receiving their load (because their flatbed truck will put them higher than 4 feet). But then, let’s say that the driver is delivering those I-beams to a construction site. Once the truck driver arrives at the construction location, they will not need to wear fall protection at that location.  

Now, let’s say that a top-loading tanker truck is picking up oil from a refinery and then delivering that oil to a construction site. At the refinery, the truck driver will need to use fall protection equipment. And then, at the construction site, the truck driver will also need fall protection because they are accessing a height higher than 6 feet in order to open their top-loading oil tank.

Federally and municipally owned streets are officially DOT property. Due to the vast array of roads, streets, highways, byways, and all other routes for automotive travel, there is no way that there can be a fall protection requirement for truck drivers on the roadways. As a result of this, if a truck driver needs to re-tarp a load while they are on the side of the road, they are not required under DOT regulation to use fall protection.

WHY WOULD WE NEED FALL PROTECTION?

When people have been working in an industry or with a specific type of equipment for years, it can be difficult for those people to identify the dangers of their work environment or why they would need to use fall protection equipment. Aside from the hazard posed by the height itself, there are other factors that can potentially influence a person’s likelihood of experiencing an unintentional loss of balance.

Anyone who needs to work outdoors at height during winter weather could be exposed to dangerous situations, and it’s important to follow the proper protection protocols. Elements like snow, sleet, freezing rain, and ice can all cause slippery working conditions. Depending upon what is being transported, it is also possible for the cargo (like slick chemicals or oddly stacked items) to be a contributor toward a workplace fall. Being able to identify those hazards and have protection from those hazards is critical toward having a safer work environment for truck drivers.

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