WorkSafeBC has published a safety bulletin to highlight the threat of shifting loads following several related injuries and the death of a 39-year-old driver.

The driver who was killed had been trying to adjust a load of packaged timber that was overloading his rear axle. He loosened the load security straps while the forklift operator shifted three packages forward. As the driver walked up the side of the trailer, one of the packages of lumber slid off the trailer and crushed him to death.

That particular load was covered in plastic wrap, and the dunnage was covered in ice and snow. To compound matters, the tractor-trailer was parked on a slight slope.

“The tractor-trailer’s air suspension system also played a role in the incident. Air bags that help stabilize the trailer’s load while driving must be deflated when loading and unloading. In this case, the driver did not reduce the pressure in the air bags, and the load shifted,” the bulletin reads. “Finally, contrary to safe unloading procedures, the driver was found in the fall zone on the passenger side of the trailer – the most dangerous area during unloading.”

Among other procedures, the bulletin reminds employers to ensure that appropriate clean and dry dunnage is available in advance, drivers to choose level parking surfaces and deflate air bags before loading or unloading, and sawmills to use slip-resistant materials instead of plastic wrap to cover loads.

WorkSafeBC is a provincial agency dedicated to promoting safe and healthy workplaces, offering education, prevention, compensation and support for injured workers.