Most young people seeking employment in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and bulk storage facilities, expect their work will require them to participate in loading or unloading freight from tractor trailers. So as to avoid heavy lifting, and the risk of injury, the plant is equipped with loading docks, and the men have the benefit of material handling equipment, such as forklifts and hand jacks.

In construction however, apprentices new to this type of job, often times do not realize construction work also involves unloading construction materials from trucks. Construction materials, such as root trusses and windows, regularly weigh in excess of five hundred pounds. At a construction site, the unloading is usually done manually, as there obviously is no loading dock or forklift. This gives rise to a potential hazard, because when a person has to bend, lift and carry “bulk freight” the risk of crush injuries to hands and feet, as well as injuries to the spine, dramatically increases.

Unfortunately, construction industry safety authorities, such as The National Safety Council and OSHA, do not track injuries caused by the loading or unloading of freight on a construction site. These injuries do not affect one particular trade, like demolition work, excavation, or roofing.

Since the 1950s, the Federal Government (in the Federal Motor Carrier’s Safety Act) has promulgated safety regulations governing loading, transportation of, and unloading of freight in interstate commerce.

The regulations most applicable to construction workers are contained in the sections of the act entitled “Bulky Freight.” Bulky freight is defined as any one item weighing more than 500 pounds. The regulation requires that the cargo must be described in a document called a “bill of lading.” It is the responsibility of the driver to present a bill of lading to the consignee (the end user) at the time of delivery, so that the consignee can prepare to safely unload the cargo.

The safety rules require the driver to assist the consignee in unloading bulky freight. Also, all bulky freight, regardless of size or configuration, must be either cradled together, or palletized by the shipper, and the driver should have a lift jack available for use in the unloading.

To protect against injury, the consignee is instructed not to climb inside the trailer to assist the driver, even if the driver asks for help. It is the driver’s sole responsibility to get the freight to the rear of the trailer and assist the consignee in getting the load from the tailgate to the ground.

The job foreman, during the weekly “tool box” meeting, should instruct the worker how to safely unload construction materials delivered to the site. If the federal motor carrier safety regulations are adhered to, the risk of personal injury or damage to the product will be either eliminated or greatly reduced.

Finally, always remember, never stand directly behind the trailer. One never knows when a piece of loose freight may have shifted in the trailer during transit, which could fall out as the door is opened.