In 2004, work-related injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers averaged 7.4 in the Material-moving occupations of truck transportation and warehousing industry, the most current information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, for the entire private sector, the rate of injuries and illnesses was 4.8 per 100 full-time workers.
Transportation and material-moving occupations accounted for the largest number of fatal work injuries of any major occupational group — 1,490 fatalities, up from 1,393 in 2003.The fatality rate for this group rose from 16.7 fatalities per 100,000 in 2003 to 17.5 in 2004. In addition, motor vehicle operators recorded two-thirds of the fatal work injuries, up 5 percent from 2003. Material-moving occupations, such as forklift operators, recorded the second-highest total of 271 fatalities, up 8 percent from 2003.
Workers in the Material-moving occupations primarily are at risk of injury from transportation incidents, overexertion, being caught in or struck by equipment, falls and assaults. Another common health hazard is the inhalation of vehicle emissions.These statistics demonstrate the need for transportation, distribution and warehousing operations to have a solid accident-prevention program in place.
Vehicle accident prevention
The National Association of Fleet Administrators estimates that 20 percent of employee drivers will have a motor vehicle accident in a given year. These range from small fender benders to multiple fatality events.
Many auto accidents can be prevented by having an effective motor vehicle fleet safety program.
In its most basic form, the program should have the following four core components:
Drivers should have a driver’s record check performed as part of the hiring process and at least annually thereafter. A policy should be in place as to what driving offenses will disqualify them from operating a company vehicle and how many years back the company will look at their driving history.
Drivers should be trained on recognized defensive-driving principles at hire and on a regular basis thereafter.
Businesses should have a system in place to assure that all vehicles are inspected regularly and serviced according to the manufacturers’ recommendations.
Drivers should be trained on what to do if they are involved in an accident. All accidents should be investigated to determine root cause and preventability. If a driver is found to be at fault, he/she should be retrained. It should be assured the driver understands what to do to prevent this type of incident from recurring.
Equipment safety concerns
Powered industrial trucks or forklifts are another major source of accidents in this industry.
Many incidents occur when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks or fall between docks and an unsecured trailer. Co-workers often are struck by a lift truck or fall while on elevated pallets and tines.
Accidents usually can be attributed to a lack of safe operating procedures, no safety-rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training.
There are strict occupational safety laws that employers must follow involving the operation of these devices, as well as training for the operators. In addition, federal law does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to operate a powered industrial truck.
Forklift safety is a high priority with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
For the motor-freight transportation and warehousing industry, this is the most frequently violated and cited safety standard.
Material handling, other factors
Manual lifting and material handling is another major source of injury.
Employers should provide general ergonomic and back-safety training at the time of hire and on a regular basis thereafter.
Whenever possible, minimize the need for manual lifting by using layout design and engineering techniques. Encourage and enforce proper lifting techniques and buddy lifting where necessary.
Assault is another injury source for the transportation and logistics industry. Employers should have a clear plan on how employees should properly respond to and handle these types of incidents.
An important health concern for warehousing operations is carbon monoxide exposure from the combustion process of improperly maintained forklifts and inadequate facility ventilation.
It is imperative that warehousing operators assure that facilities are properly ventilated and that propane-fueled industrial trucks are properly tuned.
While all employers should maintain a sound safety and health program for their employees, it is crucial for the transportation and warehousing industry to be more vigilant in their efforts.
Published: July 11, 2006
Dwayne Towles is a safety consultant with Advanced Safety & Health LLC, a Louisville occupational safety and health consulting firm. Contact him at dtowles@AdvancedSafetyHealth.com.