Inattention to safety has huge financial implications: increased expenses (workers comp, clean ups, medical bills, lawsuits, repairs, etc.), lost productivity, employee turnover, customer impacts and bad publicity. Safety considerations for spray professionals are:
Vehicle load security. Equipment that’s not secure poses a risk to:
- The driver. Flying equipment could injure the driver or interfere with his ability to control the vehicle.
- Other people on the road. Equipment flying out of a vehicle going 60 miles an hour will cause damage if it hits someone or something. Can you say lawsuit?
- The equipment itself. Loose equipment causes damage to itself or other equipment on the vehicle. Unsecured equipment causes avoidable problems. There are better ways to spend your money than repairing unnecessarily damaged equipment.
The following are key points to keep in mind. Just because it is in the truck, don’t assume it is secure. Just because it was secured five years ago when you installed it, doesn’t mean it is secure today. Just because it’s secure at 25 miles per hour under normal driving conditions doesn’t mean it will be secure in an emergency situation, such as collisions, hard stops, and evasive maneuvers to avoid accidents.
Train technicians to check their load before starting their route. A minute or two can save money, and prevent injuries, downtime and lawsuits.
Small equipment should be placed in security racks or secured otherwise. These racks also help prevent theft. We don’t recommend bungee cords, but they’re better than nothing. Just cramming stuff together isn’t securing it. Small equipment (backpack sprayers, line trimmers) should be checked by the technician every day to ensure it’s secure.
Large equipment that’s bolted to the vehicle (power spray rigs, toolboxes,) should be checked periodically.
- Tool box. Tool boxes are usually bolted through the bottom of the tool box to the truck. Inspect for rust, fatigue, or other wear around the bolts. If the material around the bolts is weak, in the event of a crash, the box might break loose.
- Spray rig. Is it securely bolted to the truck? Are bolts intact and nuts tight? Are the correct fasteners being used (stainless steel bolts won’t corrode and nylock nuts are unlikely to come loose)?
- Spray tank. Are tank straps snug and secure, or loose and worn?
Checking small equipment should be the tech’s daily responsibility. Checking large equipment should be the company’s responsibility. Use a regular schedule. For example, check the large equipment during the regularly scheduled vehicle oil changes.
Supervisors should spot check vehicles to ensure employees are securing their equipment. We never expect problems to occur, but they do. Be prepared. Conduct these inspections periodically to ensure the company and employees are being as safe as possible to protect people, property and business.
Properly sized load It’s critical the load being carried is properly sized for the vehicle. There has been a trend toward smaller vehicles to reduce vehicle and fuel costs. This is fine as long as the load carried is appropriate to the vehicle. Here’s an example of a problem. A company has a 100-gallon sprayer in a full-size truck. The company downsizes to a compact pickup to save on vehicle and gas costs. One hundred gallons is too large a load for a compact pickup. The weight of the load will make it difficult to stop the vehicle and will affect handling, such as having to swerve to avoid a hazard. Additionally, the out-sized load will increase repair expenses (brakes, tires, suspension and transmission) and probably reduce the expected gas mileage savings from switching to the smaller vehicle.
In addition to a properly sized load, it’s critical that the load be stable. Consider these questions:
- Is the load evenly balanced to ensure stable control and even wear on tires and brakes?
- Will the load shift in the event of a sudden turn or stop?
- Will the water in the tank surge when the brakes are applied making it difficult to control the vehicle? If so, add tank baffles to the water tank to reduce the impact of the water surge.
Visibility Does the equipment obstruct driver’s view of the road behind and to the sides of the vehicle? If so, what can be done to improve visibility? Cuts, abrasions, hot, moving, rough/rust, tight, overhang, bangs
Are there any places where the technician can receive an injury from equipment that’s hot, sharp, rusted or moving? Be sure these areas are protected so the technician can’t inadvertently put a hand where it will be jnjured. Is equipment overhanging the vehicle that can create a bump hazards? Examples include hose reels hanging over the side of the vehicle and trailer hitches that are a pain in the shin. Inspect equipment and vehicle for these hazards. Supervisors should ride along with technicians periodically and use the equipment. This will identify hazards and other opportunities for improving equipment selection, design and layout.
Easy up and down into truck, enough room to walk On flat-bed trucks, the technician must often climb onto the bed to access equipment and add chemicals to the water tank. Are there steps with nonslip tape and grab bars to ensure employees can get up and down safely? Once on the bed, is there room for the employee to do what needs to be done? For example, an employee having to step over a hot engine isn’t a good idea. Plan equipment placement and spacing before buying equipment and vehicle to ensure there’s sufficient space.
Clean it easily Has equipment been designed so it can be cleaned easily to remove chemical spills and buildup on the equipment and vehicle? Chemicals on equipment and vehicles is unsafe for the operator and can be perceived by the public that a company doesn’t care about safety.