Take It Easy and Avoid Injury

You’ve done it so many times before, you hardly even think about it anymore. Maybe your mind is on the road ahead or how you need to take down the Christmas lights at home. You grab the crank and start bringing up the trailer’s landing gear.

But this time something is different. You might be standing a bit too far away from the trailer, reaching out awkwardly, or your back might be stiff from long hours behind the wheel. Pain rips across your body and in an instant, that routine task costs you days off work and hours of physiotherapy.

Overexertion is pushing your body beyond what it is used to or capable of. Performing an action with more physical strain than usual, for too many repetitions, or when muscles are already stressed by previous injury or simple stiffness can result in this type of injury.

Study after study indicates overexertion is a leading cause of injuries in the workplace. WorkSafeBC statistics from 2013 to 2017 showed that overexertion was responsible for 43% of injury claims in BC, more than the other top five causes combined. A report from the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries that focused specifically on injuries within the trucking industry also identified overexertion as the number one culprit.

Backs, knees, necks, ankles, shoulders, wrists, and hands are all vulnerable to strains and sprains. Some of the factors that can turn a normal task into overexertion include:

  • Using the wrong tool for the job
  • Improper lifting or movement
  • Lack of warm up
  • Overall poor physical fitness

For those in the trucking industry, three activities are a particular source of concern:

  • Chaining tires
  • Cranking landing gear
  • Hooking and unhooking trailers

Both employers and workers should understand how these tasks can pose a risk and what steps to take to ensure that workers are not injured.
When chaining up, drivers should remember to:

  • Climb down from the cab slowly and use three points of contact.
  • Wear warm, waterproof, slip-resistant footwear, and a compliant high-visibility garment.
  • Have multiple sets of gloves, waterproof clothing, and a small kneeling tarp.
  • Use a headlamp in darkness or low-light conditions.
  • Get close to the tires to minimize overextending your reach.
  • Stay balanced; keep feet at shoulder width when crouching.
  • Position yourself so you can watch for oncoming traffic.
  • Chain up before you get stuck. Waiting may leave you working in a dangerous or awkward situation.

Employers have a legal duty to provide instruction and training and drivers need to learn how to safely and properly install chains before they have to do it on the road.

For more on chaining up safely, see these SafetyDriven – Trucking Safety Council of BC resources:

Cranking landing gear seems simple, but if done incorrectly, can easily cause overexertion. Be sure to:

  • Make sure your footing is secure.
  • Spread your feet to shoulder width or more.
  • Place one hand on the trailer for stability, if possible.
  • Bend your knees, not your back.
  • Hold the crank firmly with your whole hand.

A report published in Applied Ergonomics suggests that when resistance is low (lowering the trailer), the best position for cranking is facing the trailer. When resistance is high (raising the trailer) the driver should stand with one shoulder towards the trailer to apply his or her full body strength and reduce shoulder strain.

The video “Injury Prevention Video Series: Cranking Landing Gear,” available through the SafetyDriven website, provides guidance.

The third source of frequent injuries is hooking and unhooking trailers. Drivers should always:

  • Use a fifth-wheel puller.
  • Ensure that the hook on the puller is large enough that it will not slip off the fifth-wheel handle.
  • Make sure your footing is secure.
  • Place one hand on the trailer for stability.
  • Bend your knees, not your back.
  • Ensure you have sufficient room to use the puller.
  • Consider moving the tractor slightly to relieve pressure if the pin is too stiff to pull.

The following resources are available through the SafetyDriven website:

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation also provides coupling/uncoupling directions in their online “Truck Handbook.”
Overexertion injuries can usually be avoided through safe practices. To learn more about this topic, visit the following links:

Font size: