To chock or not to chock? That is a safety question

J.J. Keller & Associates
Tags: workplace safety

As a safety manager, Randy often took walks through the facility looking for safety issues or possible violations. He sometimes had to remind employees to use personal protective equipment (PPE) or about safe ways to perform a specific job. Being the safety person was a full-time job, after all. More than full-time, many would say.


One day while in the loading dock area, he noticed a forklift working in a semi-trailer. What concerned him was that the trailer wheels were not chocked, even though the company had a policy that trailers positioned at the loading docks were to have their wheels chocked before the forklifts could load or unload them. There were also signs prominently displayed to remind employees of this.


Randy stopped the forklift operator to talk about the apparent violation of safety policy, when Don, the loading dock supervisor, came over to see what was going on.


"The forklift operator says they were all told they didn't have to chock the trailer wheels," Randy said.


"That's right. I read that OSHA doesn't enforce that anymore," Don said. "It takes time to chock trailer wheels."


Randy explained that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) brake regulations does take precedence over OSHA's wheel chocking requirements as they apply to commercial motor vehicles at loading docks, and that, in fact, OSHA was not enforcing the chocking requirement.


However, Randy explained, OSHA rules and regulations are considered the minimum that an employer must do for workplace safety. The company's written policy states that trailer wheels must be chocked prior to the loading or unloading operations, and that the drivers were expected to follow that requirement.


What the agencies say

In a letter to OSHA, FMCSA stated that the subject is covered under an FMCSA regulation, 49 CFR 393.41(a), which requires the availability and use of a parking brake system. Further, FMCSA said that the regulation was written specifically to protect truck drivers and anyone else who might be injured by inadvertent movement of a parked vehicle, including individuals whose occupations bring them into contact with trailers. The regulation implies that, while agricultural commodity trailers, heavy haulers, and pulpwood trailers must use chocks, all other trailers need not do so.


OSHA issued a letter of interpretation which states: "In a November 8, 2005, Letter of Interpretation, the Agency clarifies that while it will not enforce its wheel chocking requirements in 1910.178 for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) trailers, it will enforce its chocking requirements if the trailer is not considered a CMV."


All of these documents, along with an EZ Explanation on Wheel Chocking, can be found in KellerOnline.