When it comes to safety, most of the attention as it relates to the trucking industry is focused on the industry’s performance on the roads and highways. But, there is another facet of safety that also requires ongoing attention – that is safety in the workplace.
Over the past two years or so, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has served on the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the federal Labour Program’s Occupational Health & Safety Policy Unit. The committee is an employer-employee forum where the performance of federally regulated industries from the perspective of OHS is monitored and discussed.
Trucking has the largest number of employers in the federally-regulated sector, which also includes the railways, airlines, banking, communications and the federal public sector. It also has the largest number of small businesses. Trucking also has the third largest number of employees, as measured by full-time equivalents (FTEs) after banking and the public service. In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, there were about 180,000 FTE employees in the federally-regulated road transportation sector. This represents about 15% of all federally-regulated employees by FTEs.
According to the latest statistical report from Labour Canada, the total number of work-related fatalities reported for all federal employers in the federal jurisdiction decreased in 2012 by about 20% from the previous year. Other than what appears to be an aberration in the form of a 50% increase from 2010 to 2011, the overall trend in the federal jurisdiction for the five-year period from 2008-2012 has been downwards.
Unfortunately, 60% (29 of 48) of work-related fatalities in the federal sector in 2012 occurred in road transportation, which is mainly trucking. (The next highest was air transportation at 11%). In addition, road transportation accounted for just over a third of all disabling injuries.
In total, road transportation in 2012 saw 7,306 disabling injuries, 29 fatalities and 8,041 minor injuries for a total of 15,376 incidences.
Not surprisingly then, road transportation has been identified as one of the sectors to receive special attention as a ‘national priority sector’ from the government officials in charge of the country’s federal occupational health and safety regulations.
Recently, Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) informed CTA of its priorities for “preventing injuries, fatalities and hazardous occurrences, particularly in high-risk industries” for the period 2015 to 2017. Some carriers have already seen increased audit activity.
While there is some variation from year to year, most OHS violations in the road transportation sector occur under the regulations covering: permanent structures; materials handling; hazardous substances; safe occupancy of the workplace; first aid; and, violence in the workplace. Examples of common violations in each category include:
Permanent structures: Portable dock plates are not clearly marked with safe working loads; Fire doors are propped open (required to remain shut); Upper levels improperly built (ie. cannot bear load stored on them or do not meet Code requirements).
Materials handling: Lack of single code/signals (required to establish single code and training on the code); Lack of operator training on materials handling concerning variety of equipment (ie. cranes and forklifts); Lack of written instructions and inspections on maintenance of materials handling equipment;Not wearing restraining devices (seat belts) on motorized materials handling equipment (ie. forklift); Trailers not properly secured at loading docks; Improperly secured loads on motorized materials handling equipment (ie. improper use of forklifts as loads are often too heavy); Home-made forklift attachments, ie. for lifting workers (needs to meet requirements, which is more easily achieved when manufactured to fit specific forklift).
Hazardous substances: Safety data sheets not up to date; Not labelling all portable containers; Improper storage (ie. flammable material next to welding area; propane cylinders unsecured and in building supposed to be secured and stored outside); Air quality concerns (ie. due to poor forklift maintenance; improper ventilation in indoor loading areas).
Safe occupancy of the workplace: Lack of written procedures on safety materials (ie. regarding fire drills); No inspections (or improper inspections) of fire protection equipment (ie. fire extinguishers).
First Aid: Not enough first aid attendants; First aid kits are incomplete or incorrect; No information on emergency procedures; Inadequate equipment (ie. for eye-washing stations and emergency showers).
Violence prevention in the workplace: No program in place; Employers are often unaware of their obligations.
All trucking employers in the federally-regulated sector would do well to review their OHS practices in light of this information.
David Bradley is CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario Trucking Association.