Struck-by hazards in transportation

Safety in the transportation industry boils down to two words: constant vigilance. Drivers must be aware of hazards at all times when they’re on the road. But all workers, whether or not they’re behind the wheel, need to be alert to the risks of being struck by vehicles and objects in truck yards.

Though not as common as motor-vehicle incidents, struck-bys continue to injure and kill workers across the province. These events are not only tragic, they’re also costly: In December 2022, a Toronto waste transfer facility was fined over $125,000 after an onsite employee was killed by a reversing truck the year before.

The good news is that transportation companies can always make their yards safer—by performing hazard assessments, implementing controls, and continually evaluating their effectiveness. Worker consultation is key to this process. Their knowledge can help ensure that the root causes of hazards are identified and practical solutions are adopted.

Struck-by hazards in transportation

The nature of trucking means that no firm, no matter how complete its health and safety management system, can eliminate the risk of struck-by incidents in the yard. However, employers and workers can minimize serious injuries and fatalities by maintaining a well-designed yard and following best practices for working in it.

Consider yard layout

Make sure your hazard assessment considers yard layout. Study the effectiveness of safety controls for traffic flow, speed limits, and designated spaces for trucks to load, unload, and safely manoeuvre and park.

It’s vitally important to separate vehicle and pedestrian activity in the yard. For instance, do the designated pedestrian areas or physical barriers separate people safely from vehicles? Are yard workers and drivers following best practices and procedures when they work around loading docks?

Make sure to assess yard lighting, too. Insufficient or inconsistent lighting reduces visibility for drivers and yard workers alike. A 2021 analysis by IHSA, along with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development (MLITSD), and transportation subject-matter experts, found poor lighting to be the number-one root cause of dangerous incidents in truck yards.

Beware of blind spots

Large trucks have large blind spots, which pose a significant risk when vehicles and machinery are backing up in a yard (or anywhere else). The risk of an incident increases in noisy, congested areas where the presence of multiple vehicles may affect visibility. Workers in the yard should always make eye contact with drivers before approaching vehicles or equipment.

Employers and supervisors should communicate the danger of blind spots by showing workers where the view is restricted on a truck or heavy equipment. Let workers sit in the driver’s seat and see the blind spots for themselves.

Also consider additional safety measures, such as:

  • Having a trained signaller to act as a second set of eyes for drivers when they need to back up
  • Installing extra mirrors in the truck yard
  • Investing in technology such as backup cameras and blind spot monitoring systems for trucks
  • Ensuring all vehicles that operate in the yard have backup alarms
  • Outfitting employees with electronic ID tags that signal to drivers when a worker is nearby.

Cover safety best practices

Ensure your policies and procedures cover all the best yard safety practices that your workers and drivers are required to follow, including:

  • Requirements for high-visibility clothing
  • Speed limits
  • Clear rules for signallers
  • Detailed procedures for working around loading docks

Keep communication lines open

Lack of consistent discussion about yard safety policies and procedures, limited communication with drivers before they enter the yard, and language barriers between drivers, workers, and supervisors can all increase the risk of struck-by incidents.

Which means that clear, ongoing communication with drivers and yard workers is extremely important. Management must not only inform employees about all hazards and control measures, but also any near misses. These discussions are useful opportunities to uncover the causes of any dangerous incidents and to evaluate—and improve—your company’s existing controls and its overall health and safety management system.

Securing loads to prevent struck-bys

Struck-by hazards in transportation

Improperly secured loads are another significant struck-by hazard in truck yards and at other workplaces. If freight isn’t adequately secured to—or carefully unloaded from—a vehicle, it can fall and seriously injure workers.

Methods and materials

There are many methods and materials for securing loads and cargo on vehicles and intermodal containers. They include:

  • strapping (steel, polyester, nylon, and polypropylene)
  • fasteners (nails and bolts)
  • dunnage
  • lashing (ropes, cables, wires, and chains)

Whichever method you choose, always refer to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (particularly section 111 of the Act) and the Security of Loads regulation (O. Reg. 363/04) to ensure you are in compliance with the law. The National Safety Code Standard 10 also offers extensive guidance on cargo securement.

Safe work practices

Workers can take a number of other steps to decrease their risk of being struck by falling or moving cargo:

  • Make sure all goods are shrink-wrapped and strapped on pallets or secured to a truck trailer’s side wall.
  • Before unloading a truck, look at its trailer doors to make sure they are properly latched and that they aren’t bulging from cargo leaning against them. If the doors are bulging or improperly latched, ask for assistance.
  • Only trained, qualified drivers should operate equipment like lifts trucks or cranes to load or unload materials.
  • Use telescoping tools to help you pull straps down from the top of the load.
  • Wear proper footwear such as sturdy, steel-toed boots.

Employers should ensure all workers and independent contractors are trained to recognize the dangers—to themselves and others—of materials becoming dislodged while loading, unloading, and in transit.

Learn more with IHSA

VISIT IHSA’s Yard Safety page to read about the root causes of truck yard incidents.

DOWNLOAD more than a dozen safety talks on working in and around trucks and other large vehicles.

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