Fall Protection Solutions for Recycling Trucks: Keeping Workers Safe

Published on: October 11, 2017

At any company, employee safety is the top priority. However, the stakes are higher for companies in manufacturing, maintenance, and transportation. At these companies, technicians and laborers need to climb and descend often, and the risk of falling increases with hazards, uneven surfaces, and tricky working conditions.

Nowhere is this more true than in recycling and solid waste management, and fall protection solutions for recycling trucks keep workers safe, arresting falls that otherwise could end in serious injury.

Recycling workers often need to climb on top of trucks, trailers, and containers in the course of their jobs. On many occasions, that means walking on an irregular surface, over ten feet in the air, while large machinery is operating nearby. Needless to say, recycling, processing, loading/unloading, and truck maintenance can be dangerous.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues strict standards about personal protection, including guidelines on fall protection. Falls constitute the most common, and potentially most serious, threats to worker safety, and guard rails and toe boards are a minimum to prevent injuries. However, in many cases, more active fall protection, like harnesses and fall arrest systems make sense. In the case of recycling trucks, installing permanent toe boards and rails onto the tops of trucks isn’t feasible, and a fall arrest solution is a good option.

Ease and Frequency of Access to a Recycling Truck Roof

One reason fall protection solutions for recycling trucks make a lot of sense is the frequency of access required in many recycling operations. Certain jobs require crew members to repeatedly climb and descend the truck while performing routine maintenance, loading/unloading, or other tasks. As such, other safety solutions, such as guard rails, restrict the worker’s movement. They also consume time climbing and descending the truck from only one access point.

A harness-based fall arrest system allows workers to easily climb, descend, and move about the truck. While the initial time rigging the system and putting on the harness takes a few minutes, the upfront time spent on preparation pays off over the course of a work day in terms of flexibility and accessibility. Additionally, fall arrest harnesses are increasingly becoming easy to rig and clip in, meaning the upfront time investment is lower than older traditional harness systems.

Risk and Severity of a Fall from a Recycling Truck

For some flat surfaces only a few feet off the ground, fall prevention and arrest systems can be fairly simple. However, in the case of a recycling truck, uneven surfaces and considerable height make comprehensive fall arrest systems a high priority. Fall arrest systems, when properly used, prevent injuries and even save lives.

The top of a recycling truck is usually ten or eleven feet off the ground. A fall from that height presents a serious risk of injury, and falls involving the head and neck could lead to worker paralysis or death. In addition to the height risk, the top of a recycling truck is not a flat, even surface. Instead, beams, bolts, and protrusions are present throughout the work surface. These tripping hazards increase the risk of a fall, making fall arrest systems that much more important.

Indoor Fall Arrest Solutions

The best indoor fall protection solutions for recycling trucks involve a rail track installed overhead. The track allows the fall protection harnessing system to glide effortlessly down the length of the truck. For most applications, it’s wise to install a twin track system that allows for two users simultaneously. That way, more than one worker can climb the truck. In a twin track system, the two harnessing systems work and move independent of one another.

In the case of recycling truck loading, unloading, and maintenance, a 50-foot FlexRail dual track system is the best option, offering flexibility at a reasonable price point. With 50 feet of track, workers will be able to easily reach all areas of the truck. Track installation requires bolting the track to structural support elements overhead, like a ceiling beam or truss. Before installation, an engineer needs to evaluate the structure and design the system to meet certain load standards.

Outdoor Fall Arrest Solutions

It’s possible to use an overhead rail for an outdoor fall arrest system, as well. The major obvious difference is the lack of ceiling beams/trusses to attach the rail. Outdoor fall arrest solutions for recycling trucks utilize a freestanding structure that cantilevers over the truck. The base of the fall support structure is ballasted with concrete or other material to provide a counterweight, allowing for close placement to the recycling truck without restricting access. These freestanding counterbalance systems are ANSI and OSHA compliant for fall safety.

Project Scope for Fall Protection Solutions for Recycling Trucks

When considering a fall protection solution, you’ll want to consult with an industry expert. Not only do fall protection experts know about the various solutions available in the industry. They can also evaluate your specific site and structure to make individualized recommendations based on your needs. Professionals can also help you through the engineering design and permitting process, including fabrication, installation, and certification of your system.

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