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Truck safety: falls and loads

What’s the problem?

Workers and drivers in the road transport industry are often exposed to the hazards of:

  • hazardous manual tasks, such as moving heavy or awkward loads and securing loads
  • falls from height when loading or unloading vehicles.

Any of these could result in musculoskeletal injuries (such as fractures, sprains, strains) and even death.

Managing the risks of falls

To manage falls, work though the hierarchy of controls. We’ve listed some of them here, from the most effective to the least:

  • where possible, work from the ground or from a solid work platform
  • use a passive fall protection device, such as a guard rail or temporary work platform
  • use a work positioning system that prevents workers moving beyond any point where they can fall
  • consider a fall arrest system that is supported by emergency procedures to rescue the fallen person immediately
  • install retractable steps with integrated handrails, or portable steps that hook into the rope rail of the trailer
  • paint high-vis lines inside the trailer bed that alert workers on the trailer that they’re approaching the edge. This is the least effective measure.

Managing the risks of manual tasks

  • Remove or reduce the need to manually handle freight items by using suitable and well-maintained equipment like forklifts, pallet jacks and tailgate lifters. Select equipment that workers can push rather than pull: this involves less pressure on the lower back and fewer awkward poses, maximises the use of body weight and also allows better vision for the worker.
  • Work with the companies whose goods you’re moving to ensure the size, weight and shape of items are made for safe handling. Smaller and lighter is usually better.
  • Again, work with your clients to ensure the distance from the pick-up/drop-off points to the vehicle is as short as possible.
  • Provide workers with non-slip footwear, high-vis vests, gloves and any other protective equipment or clothing required.
  • Maintain good housekeeping to ensure there are no obstructions or slip/trip hazards on floors or in the work area. Install non-slip surfaces where appropriate.

Managing the risks of securing loads

WorkSafe Victoria’s guidance note Safe handling when securing loads on trucks goes into thorough technical detail about:

  • handling side-gates
  • opening and closing side-curtains
  • using tensioning devices with chains and webbing.

It also has many photos and graphics to show what’s safe and what’s not. See Resources below.

The National Transport Commission’s Load Restraint Guide and Load Restraint Guide for Light Vehicles provides truck drivers, operators and others in the transport chain of responsibility with basic safety principles for the safe carriage of loads. If you’re involved in packing, loading, moving or unloading a vehicle, you are responsible for complying with load restraint laws. These two guides will help you comply with these laws. See Resources below.

Other points

  • Provide your workers with training and instruction on safe manual handling procedures and safe loading/unloading techniques.
  • Set realistic work schedules and deadlines to ensure workers are working at a safe pace.
  • Encourage workers to use their breaks to stretch and move.

Resources and solutions

Safety in the road freight transport industry: SafeWork NSW (external link)

Safe handling when securing loads on trucks: WorkSafe Victoria (external link)

Load Restraint Guide and Load Restraint Guide for Light Vehicles: National Transport Commission (external link)

Updated: 29th October 2019