Flatbed Safety Systems Eliminate Deadly Falls
Gerdau, the largest long steel producer in North and South America, was having a serious problem at one of their many locations. Like lots of companies out there, their drivers were still tarping loads on their flatbeds by climbing on top of the load to spread the tarp. These shipments could contain any one of the company’s many products: rail spikes, rebar, sheet piling and more. Just falling on the product itself would be painful enough, but falling off the flatbed can be downright dangerous.
This is still a serious problem in the industry, risking a fall from a height that is almost guaranteed to cause shoulder, neck and/or head injuries – if not death. Since several of Gerdau’s drivers had experienced injurious falls tarping a load of steel, it was time to confront the issue. Because steel is a premium product, it has to be tarped for protection from water, road grime and other corrosive elements, but there are safer ways to do it. Tarping a flatbed load is one of the most dangerous activities a driver faces on the job. Many still do not know there are safer alternatives than walking all over a load risking a debilitating fall while simultaneously attempting to maneuver a heavy, cumbersome tarp.
When Carbis Group received the call, we took a trip to one of Gerdau’s locations to get a look at the site up close and personal. The danger of climbing on a load is that most loads are uneven. Once covered with a tarp it’s impossible to tell where there might be a hole or where the load might shift once you step on it. It’s like playing Russian roulette every time a driver has to climb up on the flatbed.
Carbis Group, engineers evaluated the jobsite and saw what the drivers faced every day. Then they came up with a solution to keep drivers safer – flatbed safety systems. These systems consist of two separate platforms with stairs and handrails to ascend. Once on the platform, the only way a driver can fall is if he/she trips over his/her own feet, but even then the rail and midrail would stop them.
The way it works is, a driver pulls the truck up between the two platforms, then spring-balanced “Caution” arms with yellow and black stripes come down to provide fall prevention along the front and the rear of the trailer. The platforms can be adjusted horizontally to get close enough to tarp the load with ease.
Because of the number of trucks and drivers Gerdau employs, Carbis designed and manufactured six tarping stations with overhead cover to protect drivers and their product from inclement weather. We added two stations without protective cover that can be used when the weather, and business, is good and extra tarping stations are needed.
Once all flatbed safety systems were installed we were curious to see how the drivers themselves liked using them. So we went back to the site and were thrilled to hear that all the drivers were using and loving the system. One of the things that ensured they used the system and used it properly was training. It worked best not to hand someone a manual and hope they read it, but to have actual training on the equipment to ensure everyone knows how to use it. These drivers felt much safer on the job and while they didn’t save time with the new system, they didn’t lose any time either. Gerdau was happy because they ARE saving time and money since less falls mean less downtime, hospital bills, and lawsuits. It’s a winning solution for everyone involved. And just to prove how much these drivers really did love this system, several of them have written testimonials to other companies that they encounter on their jobs and have urged these companies to get the Carbis Group flatbed safety system because it works so well. You can’t get better press than that!