Safety Tips FACE Reports

FACE Report: Truck driver crushed by freight pushed off flatbed trailer

Photo: NIOSH

Case report: #71-249-2024
Issued by: Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of report: Jan. 8, 2024

A semitruck driver arrived at a construction site to deliver roofing materials on a flatbed trailer. The materials included metal sheets in three 56-foot-long wood crates. Because the load left no room for the driver to bring a forklift, he asked workers at the site to use their company’s telehandler forklift to unload the trailer. A lead carpenter operated the forklift, assisted by spotters at each end of the trailer. The truck driver directed the forklift operator to lift two of the crates, at one time, from the passenger side so he could pull the truck forward from under them. He then went to the driver’s side of the trailer to put cargo straps into the underbody toolbox. As the forklift operator began to lift the crates, the third crate – which weighed 2,500 pounds – was inadvertently pushed off the driver’s side of the trailer. The workers went around the trailer and found the driver crushed under the fallen crate. They used a skid-steer loader to lift the crate off him, began CPR and called 911. Medics arrived, and the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators found that the telehandler operator and spotters had obstructed views and believed the driver was in his truck cab when they were unloading the trailer.

To help prevent similar incidents, employers should:

  • Provide initial and refresher cargo securement training for flatbed drivers.
  • Prohibit forklift operators from unloading freight on flatbed trailers 
unless they are trained and certified.
  • Create and enforce a standard operating procedure for unloading freight that requires truck drivers to:
    • Perform a site hazard analysis of the unloading area and develop a method for preventing workers from being harmed by falling or shifting freight and movement of material handling equipment.
    • Place high-visibility warning signs at each end of the blind zone on the opposite side of the flatbed trailer from where the forklift or crane operator is unloading.
    • Wait in truck cabs or a designated safe zone when other workers operate forklifts or cranes.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)