LOGISTICS | Personal Safety and Vehicles

Poor personal safety around fleet vehicles is a top Health & Safety failing.

When auditing their business, logistic companies are often found wanting in several areas.

In particular, they often fail:

  • To ensure appropriate Health & Safety policy and risk assessments are in place
  • To communicate their Health & Safety policy and risk assessment findings to staff
  • To get their transport workforce to acknowledge receipt of Health & Safety information

Falls from vehicles

More than 2,000 people suffer a serious injury each year falling from vehicles and on average five of these injuries prove fatal. Incidents include falls from trailers, tail-lifts and truck cabs.

Employers and drivers are legally required to make sure they take practical measures to prevent falls from vehicles and/or reduce the risks of falls while working at height.

Common causes of falls include:

  • Slipping and falling from loads and access steps and ladders
  • Broken ropes or torn sheets that result in overbalancing
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Bad weather
  • Lack of awareness and training

One example of this is a transport firm being fined £150,000 for safety failings. This relate to a fall from height that ultimately resulted in a fatality. Whilst unloading a lorry, the victim was using an unsecured ladder. He fell and suffered extensive brain damage and was left in a permanent vegetative state. He died two years later. The company was fined after the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the firm did not properly safeguard workers from falls.

injuries a year falling from a vehicle

Risk assessment

Risk assessments are required by law. They are essential in identifying sensible ways to control workplace Health & Safety risks. Failure to adequately manage any potential risks can lead to prosecution and a heavy fine.

Risk assessments help you to understand any risks that might be involved.

While individual drivers are not responsible for writing their own risk assessment (fleet manager or equivalent will be responsible), they should be familiar with and have signed their employer’s risk assessment. Drivers should also be aware of the potential risks they face on jobs and how to reduce them.

Fleet operator risk assessments must cover the prevention of falls from vehicles and working at height. They should also cover the:

  • Work activity
  • Equipment to be used
  • Location of the work and any hazards
  • Working environment (weather, lighting etc)
  • Condition of existing work surfaces
  • Length of time the work will take
  • Workers’ physical capabilities.

The risk assessment should also answer the following:  

  • What tasks might involve someone climbing on to a vehicle or structure
  • What are the risks of doing those tasks
  • Can those risks be eliminated
  • If not, how can those risks be sufficiently reduced?

Drivers must be familiar with the risk assessment and should sign it.

risk assessment

Working at height

Working at height should be avoided unless essential. If unavoidable, make sure all work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out by people competent to do the job.

To avoid falls from vehicles:

  • Keep soles of footwear clear to reduce the risk of slipping
  • Follow safe systems of work for loading and unloading vehicles
  • Train drivers to safely use equipment, such as tail-lifts or lorry loader cranes – and make sure they continue to use equipment safely
  • Use the ‘three-point hold’ rule – when climbing keep at least three points of contact with the vehicle, moving one limb at a time (test new hold before moving on).

Getting on and off vehicles 

This might seem a bit trivial but never jump down – falls are more likely and it’s bad for the knees!

Always get on or off vehicles safely by, for example:

  • Using gantries or tower scaffolds when carrying out maintenance above ground level
  • Using steps and handholds
  • Facing the vehicle and using any handhold when climbing down from the cab, load area or catwalk – take a few seconds to do so
  • Checking for uneven surfaces before stepping off the vehicle.
fatalities every year

Pre-use vehicle checks

Pre-use checks on vehicles should be carried out, including:

  • Checking steps and handholds are in good condition
  • Reporting missing or damaged equipment such as broken boards that could cause a fall
  • Keeping the load area tidy by picking up loose ropes, packaging etc
  • Checking straps are safely stored on curtain-siders so people do not trip on them
  • Cleaning up spills and dirt etc on the catwalk or load area that can cause slips
  • On refrigerated vehicles, checking floor conditions for ice or water (follow systems for reducing the amount produced).

Toolbox talks

This is about getting together in an informal manner to discuss Health & Safety issues.

Toolbox talks help promote a positive Health & Safety culture.

They are a great way of communicating company policy to all drivers (including sub-contracted and agency drivers) on the prevention of falls from vehicles or trailers and working at height.

To make sure drivers (as well as those who assist them in loading activities and passengers) understand the risks – be sure to cover the following areas:

  • The common causes of falls
  • What a risk assessment is
  • What must be done to reduce the risks of working at height and prevent falls from vehicles
  • What must be done when getting on or off vehicles
  • What should be done to help keep vehicles safe.

Provide examples of how people can work more safely.

How We Can Help

Ellis Whittam make simple sense of the law.

The law states, when it comes to Health & Safety, you need to have one or more ‘Competent Persons’. This is something Ellis Whittam can do to keep your fleet safe.

A Health & Safety consultant with specific transport sector experience will help to identify the hazards and manage the risks in your company.

We help directors and managers understand and keep on top of their multiple Health & Safety duties. 

Contact us to learn about our fixed fee, unlimited support service.

Let's start talking on 0345 226 8393 or complete the form below.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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