Thursday May 26, 2022
For the road ahead

HSE safety notice on vehicle loading and unloading


The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will shortly be publishing a safety notice relating to HGV drivers being put at risk during loading and unloading operations. In advance of the publication the HSE have supplied the information below. Once the safety notice is published, a copy will be available to URTU members.

HSE Information - Loading and unloading operations 

Drivers of curtain-sided and flatbed HGVs are often required to assist during loading and unloading operations. This can involve re-positioning curtains or tarpaulins, adjusting struts, posts or straps or directing the FLT driver on where to place the load. This puts them in close proximity to moving FLTs and exposes them to the risk of being struck by the FLT itself or moving loads. Even when lorry drivers are standing next to their vehicle in what may seem like a safe position, they could still be at risk from FLT and other vehicle movement or from dropped or damaged loads. A number of fatal and serious injury incidents involving HGV drivers have occurred recently during loading or unloading of curtain-sided HGVs or flatbed trailers.

Action to take

The most effective way of reducing the risk to HGV drivers during loading/unloading operations is to ensure they are a safe distance from the area when loads are being moved and lifting equipment is operating.

If possible, drivers should not remain in their cab as there is a risk that they may drive away too early, potentially putting others at risk. If no alternative is available, there must be a system in place of equal efficacy to removing the driver from the cab to reduce the risk of an accidental or deliberate driveaway incident. This may involve temporarily storing the keys in a safe location while loading/unloading is going on i.e. stored away from the cab.

Where an HGV driver is required to prepare the vehicle for loading or unloading by, for example, adjusting curtains or tarpaulins or placing or removing trailer struts or straps, the operation of any lifting equipment being used for loading or unloading should stop and not start until the driver is in a safe location.

Where possible, preparation of the vehicle should be completed before unloading starts or after loading is complete, however where an HGV driver has to intervene part way through the loading/unloading process, any lifting equipment should cease operating until the driver has completed his actions and returned to a safe location.

Where an HGV driver is required to observe the loading of their vehicle they should do so from a safe location. Different sites will have different arrangements, however any location provided for this should be segregated from site traffic and other hazards e.g. loads which could become unstable during loading.

Loads can move or become unstable during transport and during the loading or unloading process. If drivers become aware of load movement during the journey, they should slow down, avoiding harsh braking, and stop in a safe location as soon as possible. Drivers should not walk under a load that is leaning to one side of the vehicle or trailer. If the shifted load is pressing against the curtain of a curtain-sider, the curtain should not be opened on that side. The vehicle should be quarantined at the side of the road or on site and plans made to unload it safely. A vehicle with a known shifted load (a ‘shot load') at the point of unloading must not be sent back onto the public highway.

Dutyholders who carry out loading and unloading operations at their sites should ensure that all drivers are supported if they raise safety concerns and are empowered to stop the operation or ask for the vehicle to be reloaded/reconfigured if necessary. Drivers should not be put under pressure to take vehicles they believe to be dangerous onto the public highway or treated adversely for raising safety concerns./unloading operation, including the HGV driver and forklift truck driver, may be from different companies, may speak different languages, and may have never worked together before, therefore good communication between all parties is essential. Where non-UK drivers regularly attend site, the provision of for example, site layout and loading/unloading instructions in several languages (possibly including pictures) may help to assist the driver's understanding of the loading/unloading process.

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