Tautliner curtains are an innovation from the mid 1980’s, replacing the old canvas tarpaulins that drivers had to drape over a load to keep it weather proof. But whilst curtains have removed much of the heavy lifting and climbing hazards, many hand injuries occur when opening and closing the securing buckles, and similarly, shoulder injuries are a common occurrence caused by opening and closing the curtain if the task is not completed correctly.
Estimated costs of such injuries range from direct cost of $5,000 per occurrence and up to $25,000 for hidden indirect costs (SafeWork SA). That means a freight business has to earn about $500,000 in revenue just to cover the costs associated with an injury. Big dollars.
There is a lot of information about how to use tensioners and open curtains safely. Victorian Work Authority has some good material, as well as SafeWork SA. But the real benefits will come from newer innovation in buckles and curtain safety. Trailer manufacturers such as Freighter have a history of innovation and introducing new ways to efficiently and safely protecting freight. A Queensland company have developed the Strong arm Strap to assist drivers with opening and closing curtains safely. In Europe, an Austrian company Wingliner have developed side opening trailers to make life even easier. In Australia, Vawdrey are on the case with a similar innovation for the refrigerated sector, with use for dry goods as well. Buckle-less curtains from Vawdrey are also on offer.
So whilst the immediate focus for Transport Operators is to minimise injuries through training and prevention, it may be innovations in technology and advancements in design that will play a major role in reducing workplace injuries in the future for the Road Transport sector.