Trucks at Work

Aiming to reduce injury rates in trucking

I’ll admit that minute I heard about this new report from Washington State’s  Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) entitled Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, I prepared myself to endure another diatribe against motor carriers and truck drivers alike.

Yet after perusing it a little bit, I underwent a surprising change of mind as L&I's Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention program, known as SHARP, seemed to offer this report as a way to help trucking firms identify the ways in which drivers and others get injured and thereby try to reduce if not eliminate the chances of such injuries occuring.

SHARP noted that data it analyzed between 2006 and 2012 indicates that truck drivers have some of the highest rates of workplace injuries in Washington State, with one in every 13 truck drivers suffering a work-related injury every year serious enough that they have to miss work for a period of time.

The biggest culprits are sprains, strains and overexertion, with costs exceeding $107 million annually and resulting in 576,000 lost-work days.

Truck drivers suffered about 70% of those injuries, noted Caroline Smith, an epidemiologist for SHARP and the lead researcher on the study, with many of them occurring while connecting or disconnecting a trailer to the truck or opening stuck trailer doors.

Falls were also a leading cause of costly claims involving lost-work days, she added.

"Injury rates in trucking are far above the state average for all other industries combined," Smith said. "In an industry that continues to be plagued by a shortage of qualified drivers, it's vital that we keep the ones we have safe and working."

Here are few other scary factoids from the department’s report:

  • Some 52 fatalities occurred among trucking industry employees in the Evergreen state between 2006 and 2012, most of them vehicle related and all but one of them males.
  • Among Washington’s truck drivers, one in 13 was injured seriously enough that they were unable to work and were compensated for lost-work days, in addition to the costs of medical treatment.
  • There were 1.5 million lost-work days for all injuries in Washington’s trucking industry during the report's time period.
  • For the 33,000 workers employed in the trucking industry annually within the Evergreen state from 2006 through 2012, there were nearly 7,000 lost-work claims.

SHARP noted in the L&I report that it produces companion tip sheets, training and educational tools and the Keep Trucking Safe website and blog to help prevent trucking-industry injuries and continues, in Smith’s words, to try and “identify workplace hazards and low-cost, simple solutions.” Some of those suggested “solutions” include:

Since winter is a time when road surfaces and steps alike become that much slippery due to snow and ice, it’s probably no coincidence that this report is being issued now. Then again, it contains some pretty solid advice with tips truck drivers should ponder at the very least.

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