Danger and Safety Zones for Flatbed Loading

A forklift approaches the side of a flatbed trailer carrying a section of sewer line, the first section that will make up the second layer of a three-layer stack. A truck driver watches the loading operation from the other side of the trailer. Are all the cradles and blocks correctly positioned? Is the truck driver standing far enough away from the trailer? There are a lot of things to consider given that it only takes a split second for something to go wrong.

There is a principle in the flatbed trucking sector known as ‘establishing the zones’. There are two zones that should be established prior to the start of any load procedure: the danger zone and the safety zone. The names of the zones should be self-explanatory even if you do not drive a truck for a living.

The Danger Zone

The danger zone in a loading procedure is that area immediately around the truck that is susceptible to falling or shifting cargo. It should be understood that the danger zone is different with each situation. A zone must be determined based on the position of the truck, the cargo being loaded, how the cargo will be loaded, weather conditions, and so forth.

The largest safety zones can be as big as 40 to 50 feet. Such a large danger zone would be typical of an outdoor yard where certain kinds of cargo might be loaded in bad weather. For example, loading plastic tubing in an outdoor yard on a windy day would call for a larger danger zone. The other side of the coin are smaller danger zones that can be as small as just 10 or 12 feet.

Regardless of the size of the danger zone, no one should be inside that zone unnecessarily. Unless a person is actively engaged in direct loading, he or she should stay in the safety zone. Those inside the danger zone should never turn their backs on the cargo. They should remain aware of their surroundings and always have an escape route in mind.

The Safety Zone

By default, the safety zone is any area outside of the danger zone. But even this is not set in stone. Depending on the environment, there could be other hazards in the general vicinity to make what would otherwise be a safe area too dangerous to be in. For example, an interior loading space in which there are numerous forklifts operating just outside the danger zone still pose safety risks.

The main issue with safety zones is carelessness. It is not unusual for people in safety zones to pay little or no attention to what is going on with the loading process. The safety zone is safer than the danger zone, but there are still risks. Even people in the safety zone have to pay attention to the load process.

Appropriate Cargo Control

One last issue that goes hand-in-hand with danger and safety zones is cargo control. A danger zone remains dangerous until the truck driver has properly secured all cargo. According to Ohio-based Mytee Products, cargo is secured by everything from blocks to chains to winch straps.

Until cargo is properly secured, there is always the risk that something could shift or fall. So after cargo is loaded, only those actively working on securing it should be in the danger zone. Typically, this means just the truck driver and any helper he or she might have assisting him/her.

Now you know more about danger and safety zones during flatbed loading. Put them to use if you are a flatbed truck driver.