Checking Over Public Works Trucks for Safety

Going through all the steps of inspecting a public works truck before putting it into service can allow safer operations. Here are some items to consider when checking over a truck and its contents.

Vehicle inspection
For the vehicle itself, it begins by checking the depth of the tire treads, looking for any leaking fluids, and inspecting mirrors and windshields for damage. Also, be sure to regularly inspect the brakes, horn, seatbelt and back-up alarms.

Fire safety
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, any vehicle used to transport combustibles or flammables should have a 20 B:C fire extinguisher, preferably mounted in a place where workers can get to it easily in case of an emergency. There should always be a first aid kit in the vehicle. All flammables, such as gasoline, need to be in a container, approved by Underwriter Laboratories or the SC Department of Transportation, with a self-closing lid and spark arrestor for any amount over 5 gallons. For containers with a capacity of 5 gallons or less, an approved plastic gas can is appropriate.

All chemicals on a truck need labels that specify the contents. The truck should also have a safety data sheet, or SDS, for all chemicals on it. For every specific chemical, make sure employees know what personal protective equipment they need to wear according to the SDS requirements. Make sure also that they understand the emergency procedures needed if they experience chemical exposure to their eyes.

Any tools used for lifting — for example, a floor jack, bottleneck jack, chain and slings — should all have a load rated capacity that is legible. All tools should be inspected for damage before workers use them.

All drop cords in use should have a ground pin where they plug in, which often appears as a rounded prong below the other two prongs. Check also to see if there are cuts or abrasions on the cord's outer insulation. If the user can still pull the cord's outer jacket back over the internal wires, then the cord can be patched with electrical tape. If the internal copper wire cannot be covered over by the outer insulation and remains visible, that cord must be taken out of service. Cut it at the damaged section and add a new replacement end to repair the damaged cord. Be sure to check the polarity with a polarity tester to ensure proper wiring of the replacement end.

All guards should be on the side of grinders and saws and not disengaged or wedged open. If there is a chainsaw on the truck, the truck must also have chaps, a hardhat with full face shield, hearing protection and safety glasses for the operator. All welders should have the terminal lug boots on the welding leads on the welding machine. There can be no cuts in the welding lead within 10 feet of the stinger.

Inspect all ladders for any cracks or deformations in the fiberglass. Also, make sure that all cautions and limitation stickers are still legible, not faded or damaged.

The SC Municipal Insurance Trust and SC Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Function will host a virtual Public Works/Utilities Risk Management Training on December 9. Learn more at (keyword: training calendar).