Preventing Falls From Vehicles - An Information Bulletin

THINK OF A DANGEROUS industry sector and you might focus on traditionally higher-risk activities such as construction and offshore work, but in fact the transportation and storage sector accounts for a significant number of deaths and injuries at work.

In 2010/11, more than a quarter of fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR involved workplace transport and around half of reported major injuries involved falls from vehicles.

According to the latest figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are responsible for more than half of all reported major injuries and nearly a third of over-seven day injuries to workers, with a combined estimated loss of two million working days annually.

Add in injuries sustained from handling and that rises to around three million working days lost. Even a relatively minor injury can have significant personal, operational, and economic costs, both to the individual and to the employer.

There are several factors that contribute to the high rate of STFs, some practical – such as safe access to vehicles or footwear – and some a result of working practices. For any employer seeking to reduce the risk of injury and minimise lost time, it is important to be aware of the potential hazards and how best to manage the risks.

The ideal method of preventing a fall from height is to remove the need to work at height at all, but this is often easier said than done and, of course, the driver of an HGB still has to access his or her cab. However, it is worth considering whether loading and securing of the load can be carried out from the ground or, if this is impractical, how the driver and/or loaders can be protected.

Access to vehicles is a significant contributory cause of STFs, whether accessing the cab, the fifth wheel area, or the load bed itself. HSL’s research indicates that the design of the cab steps and provision of access to the fifth wheel area can be problematic, with awkward changes in step height and limited space to work putting the driver at risk of slipping and falling. Slip prevention depends on physical contact between the individual’s shoes and the floor surface, and loading and unloading of vehicles is often carried out in wet, muddy, or icy conditions that can significantly reduce the grip available. The fifth wheel area is also often contaminated with oil and grease, making it even more treacherous.

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