Lift-Gates can help or they can hurt; choose safety

Jones Tony Posted by Tony Jones

Recently an incident involving a delivery truck lift-gate resulted in an employee suffering an amputated great toe. The employee’s foot was caught in the pinch point between the lift-gate and the body of the truck while loading for a delivery. 

It seemed lift-gate safety might be a worthy subject for a safety blog subject.  An internet search reveals numerous lawyer advertisements for lift-gate and general work related injuries, accident case studies, and safety recommendations for lift-gate use. Clearly, accidents involving lift-gates, while not necessarily frequent, can be very costly to workers, employers, and manufacturers.

I’ll break down the significant information into four parts for your review: equipment considerations, pre-operations, operations, and special considerations.

Equipment Safety Considerations

  • Self-leveling lift-gates are available that keep the load level to prevent dropped cargo.
  • Consider a lift-gate with a remote control that can be operated while standing on the gate or on the ground, whichever is better in the current circumstances.
  • Consider lift-gate cart-stops, these devices pop up from the lift-gate surface and prevent cargo from rolling off.
  • If you are purchasing a new truck with a lift-gate, tell your vendor that you want the truck body floor, crash plate, sill, and liftgate to form a uniformly flat surface so freight will roll easily in and out of the truck.
  • Know the weight of your freight and lift-gate capacity. Do not overload. Over-buy capacity when purchasing a lift gate. If your carrier requires 2,500 lbs capacity, buy 3,000 or more. It gives you some good margin.


  • Maintain the lift-gate according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Read the lift-gate operator's manual and follow the directions. Pay special attention to the safety warning decals. Make sure the decals are in place and legible.
  • Visually inspect the lift-gate daily as part of the vehicle’s trip inspection and report any deficiencies. Maintain lift-gate per manufacturer's instructions. Do not use the lift-gate if there are signs of abuse, or it fails to operate properly.
  • Before running the lift-gate loaded, run it empty through its full range as a "pre-trip" to verify that it will provide a good landing area for the freight that will be rolled off it.


  • Before freight is loaded, put the right wheels or devices under or on it for safe handling. Use the cart's wheels and handles to better control the item. Use a Johnson bar to put a pallet jack, tripod dollies, or platform dollies under the item.
  • Secure top-heavy loads with strapping preventing the item from tipping or rolling off the end.
  • Consider a ratchet strap into your E-track at the rear and on both sides of the truck. Run it outside the truck to the end of the lift-gate and use it like a seat belt around the item to keep it upright and on the gate.
  • Consider a hand winch secured to a load bar inside the truck and run a strap around the item. Push the item out of the truck onto the gate, while controlling the exit by winching out slack.
  • Personnel should not ever attempt to put a piece of freight in motion that is beyond their ability to control once it starts moving. Get extra help if you need it.   
  • If crews are in a hurry to get a lift-gate load off the truck, take that as a sign of a problem.  If rushed, workers can become distracted. Workers should be focused on the lift-gate zone, without distraction, at all times.
  • Workers should be trained to keep an escape plan in mind. Be prepared to run or jump out of the way to keep from getting hurt yourself. Never... Never... Never sacrifice yourself for the freight.
  • Set the vehicle brakes and wherever possible, operate the lift-gate on a level surface.
  • Work out communication and routines between co-workers, including a “ready” signal without which the gate is not started.
  • If you have by-standers, insist that they must keep their distance.

Special Safety Considerations

  • Never use the lift-gate for any purpose other than to lift or lower cargo from the truck (i.e., never use as a personnel lift).
  • Keep hands and feet clear of all pinch points. There is, in fact, a huge shear or pinch point exposure, during lift-gate operations. Take particular note of where the lift-gate and the truck bed meet. Feet and hands are particularly vulnerable, during raising and lowering of the liftgate.
  • If you are unloading curbside on a busy street use safety cones to block the lane and create safe space in which to work. Wear reflective safety vests. Use truck flashers and safety lights to mark off the edges of the liftgate.
  • Make sure the platform is not slippery (e.g., oil, rain, ice or snow). If raining, cover the freight, with a waterproof tarp wrapping it around the freight like you would a furniture pad or shrink wrap. Secure the covering with large rubber bands used by household goods movers. Knowing the shipment is dry allows personnel to take time for cautious use of the gate.


Transportation Resources

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

It seems that folks are always asking questions about federal law concerning their truck, van, pickup, dump truck, or tractor trailer. There is a trailer load of regulations and guidelines from DOT, but also from OSHA, FMCSA, NHTSA, NTSB, and probably a lot more from other alphabet soup-like organizations. Although compliance based safety has limitations, it is an important part of any company-wide program. All questions can’t possibly be answered in this format, but the following resources should help. 

For a comprehensive list of topics, links, and FAQs from DOT, check out this website: Also, can provide a great starting point for a specific topic you have questions about. 

A concise review of the regulations regarding DOT drug testing can be found at:

Federal regulations regarding truck-mounted auxiliary fuel tanks can be found at:

If you want to know DOT records on a motor carrier’s out-of-service rates, moving violations or inspection results, they can be found at: If you find errors in your company record, they can be corrected and other information obtained at

Need to know what the cell phone laws are in different states? Check out the reference library at  This reference will list the restrictions state by state. Be sure to access BLR through MEMIC’s Safety Director to ensure full access at no cost. BLR is a great resource for all your transportation related needs as well as general workplace safety issues. 

Get the latest information regarding Maine’s transportation laws, 100 mile exemption, drug testing, turnpike weight limits, and much more at  This is the home page for the Maine Motor Transport Association. They are also a great resource for setting up drug testing for Maine companies. 

Do you have questions about hours of service?  CSA-2010?  Distracted driver issues?  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has the answers at

The list can go on and on, but that's a good start. This is definitely the information age, so regardless of what your question might be, I’m confident you can find the answer through one of these resources. Lastly, don’t forget the MEMIC Safety Director Resource Library has access to over 350 safety-related documents. MEMIC is your partner in the prevention of workplace injury.

Hiring Practices That Make Smart “Cents” for Safety

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

As the sluggish economy begins to heat up rendering a more favorable business climate, cost conscious employers looking to grow their workforce need to be even more vigilant to their hiring practices.  The search for a suitable fit can be an exhaustive exercise for a small business owner as well as for an HR professional in a large corporation.  Finding and hiring the right person demands that safety be at the forefront of the decision-making process.  Here’s why:

According to the Business & Legal Reports safety website, workplace injury statistics reveal that new employees are 5 times more likely to experience a lost-time injury in the first month of employment compared to the experienced worker.  Additionally, studies show that 40 percent of all workers injured on the job have been at it less than a year.  

 Given these facts, ensuring the safety of the “newbie” is of utmost importance, particularly where a business’s greatest asset is its people.  Equally, smart hiring practices and new employee safety orientation translate to preservation of the bottom line.

Proactive loss control measures in hiring should include:

  • Post-offer, pre-placement physical exams, especially for physically demanding job positions.
  • Written job descriptions that detail the physical aspect of the work tasks. 
  • New employee orientation and training on the equipment and tools associated with the job, emergency evacuation routes, location of first-aid kits, MSDSs, and items such as fire extinguishers. 

Most occupational health providers offer pre-placement physicals for a nominal fee. These are designed to determine the functional capacity of the individual.  The written job description stipulating physical demands can also be used in determining light duty activities for an injured employee with temporary work restrictions. 

Use of an orientation checklist while showing the new hire the safety features of the workplace can serve as documentation of the facility safety tour. 

As a timesaver, MEMIC has assembled a number of training checklists including an employee safety orientation form in the on-line MEMIC Safety Director resource library.  (Note: MEMIC Safety Director requires user registration and is exclusively for MEMIC customers.) For additional resources on hiring practices, click on the Human Resources link under the bold heading Action Plans on the Safety Director’s home page. 

Stay SAFE from the Winter Slip & Fall

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

It lurks around many a corner, on stairs, down drives, and walkways.  It does not discriminate, taking down men and women of all ages and occupations.  And it doesn’t care about an individual’s physical ability.  Feeding on snow and ice, its tendrils spread to entangle the unwary, putting them flat on their back.  What is this terrible scourge?  The Winter Slip and Fall.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, slip and falls are the third leading cause of workplace injuries and our recent winter weather has only served to increase the tally.   Even though slip and falls are frequent, they don’t have to be an inevitable result of winter weather. 

Generally, a lack of awareness (of slippery or icy conditions) and behavior, are the leading contributors to slips and falls, and the best prevention fits into four areas that can be recalled with the acronym SAFE:

  • Surface – Maintain the surface for the weather and anticipated foot traffic.  Be sure the area is lit properly and that snow removal equipment and sand or salt are readily available.
  • Awareness – Slow down, don’t be in a hurry.  Practice walking safely: shorten your stride and keep a larger portion of your footwear sole in contact with the surface during each step.
  • Footwear – Wear proper footwear for the anticipated conditions.  Wear boots to work and change at the office.  Get traction enhancers like Stabil-Icers or YakTrax to slip over shoes.
  • Environment - When the weather is inclement and temperatures are dropping below freezing, slow the pace of work to allow for better situational and hazard awareness.  Look for low spots or high-traffic areas – where ice can build up – especially when the ground is covered with that initial, light “dusting” of snow.

Keep SAFE-ty in mind, to stay on your feet this winter, and avoid the Winter Slip and Fall.

Don't Let Gravity Get You Down

Henry Reynolds Posted by Henry Reynolds

It is that time of the year when roads and walkways become slippery and hard to walk on.  What we should not forget is that during the year, in any environment, slips trips and falls can be both painful and costly to all persons involved.  Slips, trips and falls are the second leading cause of workplace injuries.

Please note these statistics:

  • 265,000 non-fatal injuries each year.
  • Average cost of a slip, trip, and fall is $27,000 per claims (i.e., medical and lost time).
  • Highest injury frequency of any regulated activity.
  • More than 800 deaths annually.
  • Leading cause of ER visits (National Safety Council).

What can we do to reduce the risk of slips, trips falls?  One place to start is with the identification of hazards. Below are just a few.

Surface Conditions

  • Slippery Floors
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Changes in Level
  • Surface protrusions or depressions
  • Poor Housekeeping
  • Lack of Space
  • Carpets, floor mats, cables, extension cords

Task Related Concerns

  • Inappropriate Footwear
  • Carry items that obstruct view
  • Rushing to complete tasks
  • Improper ladder set-up or use of ladder.
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Open Drawers
  • Winter Activities

When evaluating slip, trip, and fall hazards at work remember many of these hazards lurk in our own homes. An injury at home is no less than painful than one at work! Identify hazards in both locations to help keep your co-workers and your family members from suffering gravity's revenge.

For more information on this topic, MEMIC is hosting a webinar on January 27th. You can register online. We will address the above issues and many more in this one-hour webinar.


Click it or Ticket Revisited

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Twenty-five years ago I was a paramedic working for an ambulance service.  Seat belt usage was somewhere around 25 percent.  In other words, only one of four drivers used the belts.  Being young and impressionable I was left with one lasting impression--seat belts save lives.  I never took a body out of a seat belt, but I sure took a lot of bodies out of cars. 

Today we have made great strides in this area.  It is illegal to drive a vehicle without buckling up in nearly all states in the nation.  Seat belt use is now at about 85 percent nationwide.  We are seeing traffic increase and fatalities decrease each year.  Safety equipment, most importantly the belt, deserves the credit. 

Still unconvinced?  Are you one of the 15 percent who don’t use the seat belt?  Perhaps you are falling victim to one of the “seat belt myths”.  Here are three of the most common: 

MYTH: Drivers in air bag-equipped vehicles don't need to wear safety belts.

FACT: Air bags provide supplemental protection in frontal crashes, but motorists can slide under them if they are not wearing a seat belt. In addition, air bags will not help in a side or rear impact or rollover crash. The air bag deploys at over 200 MPH; the belt could keep the bag from killing you!  Motorists should wear a seat belt for protection in all types of crashes.

MYTH: I don't want to be trapped in a fire or underwater.

FACT: Crashes involving fire or water happen in only 1/2 of one percent of all crashes. So it doesn't happen often. However, when they do occur the best chance of survival rests in remaining conscious, uninjured, and in full possession of your faculties. The greatest danger is with the impact that precedes the fire or submersion in water. If you're not using a safety belt, it's very likely that you will be knocked unconscious or severely injured. If you're belted, it's very likely you will be able to unbuckle yourself and get out of a potential fire or submerged car situation.

MYTH: I'd rather be thrown clear in a crash.

FACT: Being thrown safely clear in a crash is almost impossible. When you're thrown, you may be thrown through the windshield, scraped along the pavement, or even crushed by your own vehicle or another one. The idea of being thrown from a car and gently landing in a grassy area beside the road is pure fantasy. Your best bet in a crash is to stay inside the vehicle, securely held by your safety belt.

For more ideas check out the following references.  The bottom line is clear; keep yourself, your employees, and everyone else on the road safer by wearing your seat belt EVERYTIME you get into a vehicle.

Part 1: What Do I Really Need for a Respiratory Protection Program?

Posted by Donna Clendenning and Greg LaRochelle

So what’s OSHA’s stance on respiratory protection in the workplace? Does everyone need to have a program?  Does everyone need to wear respiratory protection?  The short answer is “no”. 

Now, here’s the longer answer. (And it’s worth reading because this standard is once again among the top five of OSHA’s most commonly cited standards.)

Whether you work in general industry, construction, or shipbuilding, OSHA’s Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, is the first place to look to understand what the standard requires. Exceeding OSHA’s exposure limits where engineering controls are not feasible will dictate the required use of a respirator.  In this case, the general requirements for a respiratory protection program are the following:

Written Plan – Employers are required to have a written plan with the following elements along with having a named designated program administrator.

Medical Evaluation – A respirator, itself, can pose as a hazard due to the increased stress placed on the cardiopulmonary system.  A medical questionnaire form (Appendix C to the standard) needs to be completed by the employee with review by a licensed healthcare professional for determination of employee clearance for respirator use.  Oftentimes, this includes a pulmonary function exam conducted by the healthcare professional.

Respirator Selection – Respirators are selected based on the hazards that the employee may be exposed to while in the workplace.  The employer is responsible for identifying and evaluating respiratory hazards in the workplace to determine which type of respiratory protection is needed.  And, the employer is responsible for selecting respirators from a sufficient number of respirator models and sizes so that the respirator is acceptable to, and correctly fits, the user. Lastly, only NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) certified respirators are to be used.

Fatigue: A Sleeping Giant Behind the Wheel

Klatt Randy 
Posted by Randy Klatt

The next time you get behind the wheel, be it for work or pleasure, take a moment to consider how tired you feel and if you are really in the proper condition to operate a motor vehicle.  This may sound like common sense, but all too often people operate under the influence—the influence of fatigue.  Transportation accounts for the most workplace fatalities every year and more than 40,000 people die each year in the U.S. in traffic accidents.  We take driving for granted, but it really is serious business. 

Less than half of adults in America say they get a good night’s sleep every night. So it should be no surprise that up to 40% of all serious accidents are caused by driver fatigue. There are plenty of hazards on the roadways today that we can't control but driving while fatigued is one we can.

A vehicle traveling at 65 miles-per-hour covers nearly 100 feet-per-second.  Imagine how devastating even a few seconds of inattention could be.  You owe it to yourself and to the rest of the traveling public to be at your best when driving.  Get plenty of sleep, avoid driving after very long work days, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks on long trips.  Fatigue can make even the best driver a very dangerous one.

There are many resources available to help you, your employees and your family members drive safely and control the effects of fatigue.  Check out these listed below:

Can GPS enhance Fleet Safety?

Klatt Randy  Posted by Randy Klatt

Technology is everywhere in the 21st century.  This includes Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that are now compact, affordable, and easy to use.  If you operate a fleet of vehicles it might be time to look at GPS for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is safety.

Workers are more likely to die on the job from auto crashes than any other occupational hazard.  There are many steps that can be taken to improve the safety of a fleet operation including the review of driver’s motor vehicle records, requiring documented vehicle inspections, conducting recurring driver training, and employing DOT physicals.  However, employers cannot control the conditions in which employees are driving, or be with them at all times to ensure they are obeying traffic rules or following company policies.  Here is where GPS offers some help.

You can now actually know if your vehicles are exceeding speed parameters you have set.  You can instantly see where all your trucks, vans, or cars are located and their current speeds.  Dispatching, schedule changes, and responding to emergencies all becomes easier and more efficient.  Determining an ETA (estimated time of arrival) is no longer a guess; customers will appreciate this accurate information.  More efficient responses will also mean less temptation for drivers to exceed speed limits, especially since they know their movements can be seen.  For those who have hours-of-service restrictions, GPS can be used to ensure accurate reporting and log keeping.   

GPS can be used to run an operation both more efficiently and with a greater degree of safety.  Maintenance costs can be reduced as vehicles are actually being driven with more care.  This allows companies to make disciplinary decisions when necessary and reward those drivers who are doing the right thing.

Cold Work Environments – How the Body Reacts

Clark Dan Posted by Dan Clark

As a cold snap hit much of the country this week, it’s time to remember the risks that workers who brave outdoor conditions face each winter. Of course, it should be said that while outdoor conditions immediately come to mind when we think of working in cold environments, similar conditions can also exist indoors, such as freezer work.  Working in a cold environment such as refrigerators, walk in freezers or cold storage on a day-to-day basis can cause ill-health effects as well.

When our core body temperature drops just a few degrees below its normal temperature of 98.6°F, the blood vessels constrict, decreasing peripheral blood flow to reduce heat loss from the surface of the skin.  Excessive exposure to cold working conditions can lead to lower work efficiency, reduced mental awareness, and higher accident rates. 

So, whether the tasks vary from operating a fork truck in a freezer, tending a salmon pen on the open waters, or construction work in the elements, the results are potentially life threatening.  There are multiple engineering controls and safe work practices that can help protect our workers. Among them are: 

  • Personal Protective Equipment (layered clothing, gloves, insulated footwear).
  • On-site heat sources.
  • Shielding workers from wind.
  • A heated shelter.
  • Establishing rotations/frequent breaks away from the cold.
  • Establishing a buddy system in cold environments.
  • Educating workers about the cold-related symptoms.

Remember:  Cold-related ailments often go undetected until the worker’s health is endangered.  Let’s take steps to protect.

For more on cold work environment symptoms, treatment, and protection, you can visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's website.