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Logistics sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description

This strategy was developed to include the following industry subsectors under the generic heading of 'logistics':

Road haulage encompasses all logistics activities and actual delivery on the road, including international freight, regional distribution and local deliveries to private homes or retail outlets. After a temporary dip in 2009/10 the overall expansion of the industry continues. An increasing amount of freight is now being moved by self-employed workers on a subcontracted basis, with a trend towards owner-driver HGVs and smaller delivery vehicles.

The postal industry is made up of Royal Mail Group Limited and other companies licensed by Ofcom. The remainder of the subsector is split between parcel carrying and courier services.

Ports see seasonal and business variations in cargoes, leading to a reliance on casual and or non-permanent workers. There is an ageing workforce, mainly due to recruitment and retention challenges and the sector is developing a training and competency framework to address this. Many businesses based at ports do not operate within the health and safety systems of the port authority, which can result in poor control of overall site safety.

Key stakeholders

CWU is well represented in the largest of the postal services, while the courier industry is little unionised.

Most major parcel and courier companies are members of PCSA, which aims to develop safety excellence in the industry through benchmarking and sharing good practice. PCSA is looking for ways to influence safety performance among SMEs.

Retailers and major distribution companies have the potential to influence the transport chain when awarding contracts – their commitment to working towards the aims of this strategy is needed.

UKWA provides the link into the warehousing and distribution section of this sector.

Local authorities, as health and safety regulators, may have a role in influencing large retailers, eg through the Primary Authority Scheme, agreements whereby one local authority takes the lead in dealing with such companies.

Safety and health issues

Road haulage

Load safety is an issue, stemming from a general lack of compliance with the existing DfT Code of Practice. This can be linked to a lack of competence and ownership of risk. Consignors of goods often assume that responsibility for load safety rests solely with the driver, regardless of who loaded the vehicle or secured the load. Health and safety leadership and training must be improved along the supply chain to ensure that dutyholders recognise, accept and act to fulfil their responsibilities with regard to load safety.

While there are good standards among major companies some other operators are either unaware of work-related risks or do not recognise their role in dealing with them. The industry culture is one of minimising operational costs, late delivery penalties and contract-winning, which can lead to health and safety matters being accorded a low priority. Time pressures and tight deadlines can lead to unsafe working practices during loading / unloading and exposure to workplace transport risks on the highway or at third-party premises.

There is no specific evidence of work-related health concerns, with the exception of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) linked to manual handling of bulk or heavy loads. Driver fatigue is predominantly considered a road safety matter within the remit of DfT / the Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency (DVSA) / the Police.

Post and Home Delivery Services

Health and safety is not generally a high priority among SMEs and owner-drivers, leading to a general lack of understanding of good health and safety management and what is needed to comply with the law.

A target culture (driven by contract penalties) and its resulting pressures typically start at the top of the management structure and manifest themselves in working practices further down the chain. This has led to the predominance of a 'task and finish' culture among peripatetic workers, which prompts work at a fast pace and for long periods without rest, increasing the chance of accidents and human error.

Growth (linked to an increase in online retailing) and economic pressure from clients has increased the use of casual workers to enable companies to meet spikes in demand. Induction and training, particularly in manual handling and loading of goods, is essential for these workers.


There is an above-average accident rate in the high-risk dockside activities. Multiple operators carry out inherently dangerous activities on many port estates. A significant transport safety issue is in common areas where there is little ownership of risk or accountability for controlling hazards.

The potential for major incidents arises from crane collapse (as well as unstable cargoes), caused by a general lack of investment in new equipment and a failure to recognise the different maintenance or inspection requirements of ageing plant.

There is no sector-specific risk of work-related ill health. Port workers have previously been identified as an 'at risk' group for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but there is uncertainty as to whether this is due to current or historical exposures. Also, there are concerns about employees' understanding of the correct fitting and use of respiratory protective equipment. MSDs remain a significant problem due to the amount of cargo being handled at ports.

There are concerns about the availability and standard of training for seasonal and contract staff and their health and safety competence.

The sound management of safety risks across the port estate requires clarity of responsibility and accountability, as well as a commitment from the industry to ensure that operating standards and practices are clear in all the port areas.

Legislation and regulation

Enforcement of health and safety law in the workplace is split between HSE and local authorities, whereas road traffic law falls under the jurisdiction of the DfT, DVSA and the Police.

Ofcom has responsibility for regulating the postal industry and are currently proposing a move away from licensing to a 'general authorisation regime'. Royal Mail will continue to operate under licence as the 'universal service provider' under strict conditions with financial penalties for failing to meet service levels.

Health and safety regulation at ports is split between HSE and other bodies, depending on where incidents take place. Accidents onboard ships are investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), whereas HSE deals with those onshore.

Strategic regulatory and sector approach

It is estimated that up to one-third of road traffic collisions involve someone at work at the time. However, while health and safety law does apply to on-the-road activities, HSE and local authorities do not inspect proactively on this topic as there is a well-established policy line between HSE and other regulators on road safety issues. The inter-relationship between health and safety legislation and that for road safety, vehicle design / use and securing of loads means that other regulators often have greater presence and influence over road transport than HSE. Traffic commissioners, DVSA and the Police have greater access to many dutyholders and wield considerable influence due to their ability to prohibit activities and withdraw operating licences.

At ports, HSE works with MCA and MAIB on common safety interests at the ship–shore interface during loading and unloading of vessels.

Because of the intrinsic cross-cutting nature of the logistics sector and the existence of several regulators, improvements in health and safety are only likely to be achieved by cooperation or joint action.

Future trends

There is an increasing trend towards the use of premises at ports for new industries and technology, such as biomass plant and waste incineration. Emerging energy technology has led to new cargoes (such as wind turbine blades and biomass material) bringing new hazards. (This topic is also referenced in the Electricity sector strategy).

Competence in managing new risks remains a concern, as does general health and safety competence of seasonal staff. Effective induction, with adequate training and subsequent supervision, continue to challenge health and safety performance.

Aims for 2012–15

The aims for all three subsectors are the same:


Leaders to be accountable for the prevention of harm from work activities and to recognise that it is part of the way they do business throughout the supply chain.

Competence & worker involvement

Individuals at all levels accept their roles and responsibilities for health and safety.

Wider perspective

There is active engagement from within and beyond the transportation system on matters directly and indirectly affecting health and safety.

Updated 2021-02-25