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Toolbox Talk: Best Practices for Unloading Trailers

By April 20, 2021 April 21st, 2021 No Comments

Everyday an untold amount of loads of various materials, tools, equipment, etc. are transported and offloaded at construction sites all around the world. While the task of taking a load off of a trailer is usually a straightforward process, there are many things to consider. Just like any other task, there needs to be proper preplanning to ensure a safe and efficient process.

Preplanning the Unloading Process

There are many things that need to be considered before a load just shows up to the site. Proper preplanning and communication to all those involved in the task is critical to ensure the process of receiving loads at the job site goes smoothly.

Two major things to consider:
1. The load itself: what is exactly showing up on each trailer and how is it loaded? What tools, equipment, personnel, etc. will be needed to safely get the load off of the trailer? Work with the trucking company ahead of time to understand how the load is being shipped and what is required to get the load off the trailer at the jobsite.

2. Driver expectations: do the drivers of the trucks coming onto site understand what is expected of them such as but not limited to the following:

  • Entry point to the site
  • Delivery times
  • Speed limit
  • Escort requirements
  • PPE requirements
  • Truck and trailer requirements
  • Phone numbers
  • Hazards

Common Hazards During Unloading Trailers

There are plenty of hazards when dealing with offloading trailers. Variables such as work site setup, equipment used, material being offloaded, type of trailer, etc. will determine what the specific hazards are for the task.

Common hazards for unloading activities include:

  • Struck-by hazards are one of the biggest concerns during a work task that involves unloading a trailer
  • There can be many struck-by hazards including the actual load or moving equipment
    • This is particularly a concern when unsecuring loads after transport due to the potential for load shifting during transport
  • As well as when unloading materials
    • There is potential to move, hit and/or dislodge nearby material during the unloading process
  • Slips, trips, falls also are a concern
    • Climbing on and off the trailer poses fall hazards to those individuals assisting in offloading
    • Poor housekeeping or equipment such as straps or chains on the ground can pose many trip hazards
  • Pinch points hazards are also common while unloading trailers
    • Pinch points are abundant when dealing with lifting objects as well as during the staging of materials onsite
  •  Caught-in or between hazards are present any time there is heavy equipment moving or the load is being moved

Safety Checklist

Use this safety checklist while loading/unloading.

GENERAL
1. Is the truck/trailer correctly positioned and level?
2. Are wheel chocks in place?
3. Is there any damage to the truck or trailer?
4. Are the appropriate people and equipment available for loading/unloading?
5. Does the product require special lifts or a crane to handle the load?
6. Are load straps in good condition (not frayed, worn or torn)?

LOADING
1. Has the driver been moved to the company safe zone?
2. Are all helpers in sight of the forklift/crane operator?
3. Are the load restraints suitable to secure the load?
4. Does the total weight of the cargo exceed the truck’s carrying capacity?
5. Is the load well packed in the appropriate packaging?
6. Is documentation completed for all cargo being dispatched?
7. Has the driver double-checked all restraints for specific load requirements?

UNLOADING
1. Has any freight moved while in transit?
2. Are all items effectively secured to a pallet, cradle or flatbed trailer?
3. Are top-loaded items stable?
4. Could any freight move or become unstable when the load restraints are removed?
5. Has the driver been moved to the company safe zone?
6. Are all helpers in sight of the forklift/crane operator?

Unloading materials, tools, and equipment from a truck or trailer may seem like a straightforward process at face value, but there are many things to consider. Proper preplanning is a critical best practice in preventing incidents during this type of work task. Evaluate how you are currently unloading trailers and see what improvements can be made to make the task safer and go more efficiently.

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