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Coupling and decoupling trailers safely

Safe coupling and de-coupling of trailers can be unsuccessful and result from poor maintenance, mechanical failure, operator error and can result in a dropped trailer either on-site or on a public road. This film instructs truck operators how to safely couple and de-couple trailers.

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Between 2012 and 2016 there were 23 fatalities and many more incidents or near misses in Queensland where a worker was crushed or hit by a heavy vehicle or trailer because it was not effectively immobilised.

Title: Coupling and decoupling trailers safely

On screen: Tanja Stuart: Senior Inspector, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

A number of these incidents were the result of trailers not being coupled or decoupled correctly and the trailer disconnecting.

In Queensland a worker had his hand crushed between his truck and trailer when the coupling unexpectedly released.

In another incident a worker was knocked under his vehicle while uncoupling a trailer on uneven ground fracturing his right leg. Most of the time unsuccessful coupling is found to be because of poor maintenance, mechanical failure or operator error and the results can be disastrous.

These risks can be managed by using controls and ensure heavy vehicles are properly coupled with their trailers.

On screen: Preparing to couple a trailer to a truck

Before workers perform coupling and decoupling activities, employers should make sure that they have safety procedures in place and that all workers are trained on the specific type of fifth wheels and trailers they use. When preparing to couple a truck to a trailer, the driver needs to

  • park the vehicle and trailer on a flat and hard surface in a straight line
  • use an exclusion zone for pedestrians
  • make sure that there is adequate lighting either on site, handheld or affixed to the vehicle where the fifth wheel is located.

On Screen: Coupling the truck to the trailer

Once the vehicle has reversed and connected with the trailer, the worker or driver needs to check that the trailer pin has coupled correctly.

This should include :

  • a visual check that the wheel jaws have engaged,
  • raise both legs to clear the ground.
  • A functional check or tug test to ensure that the wheel jaws are locked.
  • Full leg raise.
  • Connect hoses.
  • A final visual check to ensure that the wheel jaws look like they're engaged and locked.
  • An additional tug test were the wheel jaws have engaged using a low forward gear with the trailer brakes applied.

If a worker gets distracted they should re-start this procedure.

Trailers disconnecting from trucks either on site or on the road can have catastrophic results for the public and workers. As well as cause damage to vehicles, trailers and infrastructure.

On screen: Coupling and decoupling trailers

When it comes to coupling and decoupling trailers:

On screen and voiceover:

  • Where reasonably practicable always use a flat and hard surface, in the instance where this is not possible, the trailer needs to be safely immobilised. For example using suitable wheel chocks.
  • Make sure workers or drivers who are coupling or decoupling have been trained to do this procedure on the vehicle before attempting to connect or disconnect a trailer.
  • Follow correct coupling and decoupling procedures especially checking that the wheel jaws have engaged correctly.
  • Make sure that the truck, its fifth wheel, the trailer and its pin are properly maintained and in good working order.

Work safe. Home safe.

Run time: 3 min 43 sec