Truckers use tarps to cover and protect their loads and other drivers. Falls during tarping are a serious safety concern for garbage trucks, gravel trucks, tank cars and trucks, flatbeds, and others. Because you can’t use hand-or footholds while maneuvering on top of a truck, your first choice should be to tarp from the ground. Use truck or facility mechanical devices to help. At facilities, spreader bars, shipper’s racks, and T-posts make tarping safer and easier. Buy or retrofit trucks with flip arms, soft sides, curtains, or sliding tarps that have ground-level handles and controls. Many forklift manufacturers provide compatible kits for applying tarps.
Fall prevention methods such as facility loading platforms and catwalks with handrails and steps provide safe working surfaces at a proper height for tarping. Old flatbeds can be retrofitted with railings and steps to become tarping platforms. For flatbed trucks, temporary nets or railings made of metal, plastic, or canvas can be installed to prevent falls. Railed ladders, rack arms, and ramps can be safe tarping platforms.
When you must climb the truck and load to apply a tarp, use a fall arrest system to securely tie-in and limit the distance and severity you could fall. Consider a helmet with a three-point harness to protect your head. Overhead lines and T-posts can be used at facilities. Trucks can be rigged with sliding cable and security bars that you can hook into.
Before you climb onto a truck, evaluate and adjust the load for stability. Use steps or a small ladder to climb and dismount. Face the truck and keep three points in contact at all times while you climb and move around. Never jump from the load or truck. Use caution when you walk around and over the load; watch for voids and gaps between items. When you dismount a truck or walk around to apply a tarp, watch for oncoming traffic.
Tarps can be heavy and awkward; choose the right tarp for the job to control the size, weight, and force needed to handle it. Smooth undersides keep the tarp from sticking to the load. Use mechanical aids to apply and remove tarps. If you move the tarp by hand, use good body mechanics. Face the tarp, keep your back straight, and pull the tarp out with your hands at about waist height. Avoid twisting or pulling down with your arms overhead.
Keep a firm grip on the tarp and ropes to prevent slipping. Spread your feet to shoulder width apart and stagger them slightly for the most power and stability. Watch for surface winds or gusts from traffic that could cause the tarp to fly away. Securely fix tarps to the load.
To remove a tarp, loosen it by fanning to move air underneath. Use your arms, legs, and body weight to pull the tarp off the truck; watch for unstable loads! Lay the tarp out on a flat area and check for holes or damage. Don’t walk on tarps to avoid slips and damage. Get help to fold it.
Plan a pickup or delivery job before you drive to a site. Know the site layout for the customers you visit most. Get advanced information on the load or material details and loading/unloading procedures, including available equipment and help. Consider the truck type, height, and access points before you go. Ask directly about the tarping policy; can it be done on site, or will you need to find a safe area outside the facility? Never tarp on the side of a busy road or highway.