Towing can be a very dangerous job. Tow truck drivers face many threats in a typical workday, from the danger of being hit when trying to recover a vehicle, or being injured from accidents involving road debris, chemical spills, or even their own equipment. Improper tow truck driver safety protocols in the workplace or on the road can result in severe injuries or even death. Fortunately, OSHA helps determine proper safety requirements that tow truck drivers and companies must follow to help keep drivers safe and healthy.
OSHA Requirements for Tow Truck Drivers
OSHA — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — is the federal industry responsible for protecting workers in the United States by requiring employers to provide “safe and healthful working conditions” for all employees. Working conditions refers to the potential physical and environmental hazards an employee could be exposed to on the job. OSHA regulations apply to any private employer with at least one employee in the US.
OSHA requirements for tow truck drivers protect them in the workplace, as they lay out rules for employers to follow, such as setting correct hours for employees and providing safe conditions in which to work. However, OSHA is not the only governing body for tow truck driver safety. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also has federal laws that affect workplace safety and health of commercial vehicles operators. The OSHA act allows other federal agencies’ laws to supersede their own if they step in to regulate safety and conditions — so rather than having overlapping regulations, the other agency takes precedence.
DOT vs. OSHA Requirements for Tow Truck Drivers
DOT jurisdiction applies while commercial vehicles, including tow trucks, are being operated, especially on federal roadways. For example, the DOT has authority over safety for the truck drivers’ tasks on the road while engaged in interstate commerce. They have safety standards for licensing, correct chocking and blocking of vehicle wheels, correct use of brakes, seatbelt use, and the roadworthiness of vehicles.
OSHA, on the other hand, has jurisdiction over loading and unloading that takes place off the highway, including forklifts and other powered vehicles. However, if the driver responds to a hazardous spill of chemicals or fuels, they are regulated by OSHA. OSHA also oversees safety during maintenance and repair of commercial vehicles.
Whether by OSHA, DOT, or some other governing body, tow truck drivers must comply with the safety standards designed to keep them safe in a potentially dangerous work environment. Proper employee training, including road tests and tow truck safety programs can help ensure tow truck drivers are well-versed in the safety regulations that govern their workplace and tasks, which not only protect them from harm, but protect employer liability.
Equipment for Tow Truck Driver Safety
Equipment for tow truck driver safety should prioritize visibility and functionality. There are many things every tow truck driver should prepare ahead of time to minimize the time in dangerous conditions. This includes collecting the right protective equipment and double-checking your towing equipment before heading out for a job.
Personal Protective Equipment for Tow Truck Driver Safety
Personal protective equipment should be comfortable and functional, but mostly it should use high visibility materials. Visibility not only improves tow truck driver safety during dawn, dusk and dark hours, but also makes them easier to spot by other drivers during the day. The most important personal protective equipment for tow truck drivers includes:
- High visibility reflective safety vests: Class 3 green, orange, or yellow vests are recommended for roadway and emergency workers on highways
- Appropriate reflective headwear: provide protection from falling objects with additional visibility benefits
- Gloves: provide protection against burns, cuts, and hazardous chemicals
- Foot protection: against foot injuries from vehicles rolling over feet or broken glass and debris; proper footwear also provides traction to prevent slipping icy conditions
- Eye protection: against dust, debris, and road glare
Safe and Reliable Towing Equipment
All vehicles towing equipment should be regularly serviced and checked to be reliable and compliant with all safety regulations. Towing equipment needs to prioritize ease-of-use and efficiency, so tow truck drivers can complete their work quickly. The difference of a few seconds could make the difference in saving lives on the job. All tow truck drivers should carry emergency equipment on the truck and have it inspected and updated regularly, including wheel chocks, warning signals, and a fire extinguisher.
Tow Truck Driver Safety Tips
In addition to protective equipment and DOT and OSHA requirements for tow truck drivers, here are a few best practices for tow truck driver safety:
- Establish a dedicated safety zone when loading and stay within that area at all times
- Turn on the hazard lights of all vehicles at the loading scene
- Use sufficient lighting around pickup vehicle area not only so you can see the area you’re working in, but also to provides visibility for other drivers
- Park your tow truck so it creates a barrier between you and oncoming traffic if possible
- When loading, make sure the vehicle is centered in the bed chock and block all wheels securely
- Never tow a vehicle weighing more than your towing equipment is rated to handle
- Before towing, always check the disabled vehicle’s transmission to determine the best way to tow
- Check your towing equipment regularly to make sure it complies with safety regulations and works smoothly so you can easily operate it efficiently at the scene.
Looking for reliable, safe, and efficient towing equipment? The Minute Man XD Slide In Wheel Lift is what you need. With the ability to fit in most truck beds, this simple, effective towing accessory is a must-have to complete towing jobs quickly and safely. To learn more, give us a call today.
Legal disclaimer: The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on the website as a basis for making business, legal or other decisions.