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Section 6 - (Un)loading activities

Check that there are safe systems for LOADING and UNLOADING operations

Are loading/unloading operations carried out in an area away from passing traffic, pedestrians and others not involved in the loading/unloading operation?

Are the load(s), the delivery vehicle(s) and the handling vehicle(s) compatible with each other?

By law, every employer must make sure that work equipment (which includes vehicles) is suitable for its purpose.

Vehicles should be suitable for any loads carried, and it is especially important that the vehicle has adequate anchor points to make sure that loads can be carried securely.

It shall be ensured by the employers that all lifting equipment connectors or parts of a load which will be load-bearing have adequate strength and stability to accept the stresses induced by the lift.

Simple guide to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998

For more information see -

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998: Opening learning guidance
HSE Books ISBN 0 7176 2464 1:
- Regulation 4, Strength and Stability

Are loading/unloading activities carried out on ground that is flat, firm and free from potholes?

Loading and unloading areas should be:

Are parking brakes always used on trailers and tractive units to prevent unwanted movement, eg when coupling vehicles?

It is important to make sure that vehicles do not move when they are parked (and during loading, unloading and other operations) so that people who might be working on or around the vehicle are protected.

Systems to prevent vehicles from moving can be built into the design of the vehicle or be site based.

Vehicles should have suitable and effective brakes, both for general service and for parking.

Drivers sometimes use the emergency brakes as parking brakes when they uncouple the tractive and semi-trailer units, because they have to disconnect the suzie anyway. This should never be allowed to happen. Air brakes should never be applied solely by disconnecting the suzie hose. The emergency brakes should not be relied on to secure a semi-trailer.

Although the actual brakes on this sort of system are the same for both the parking and emergency brakes, the control mechanism is very different, and emergency brakes should never be relied on to secure a semi-trailer.

Reconnecting the hose will free the brakes immediately, leaving the vehicle free to move with the driver away from the cab. These accidents are called 'vehicle runaways' and can mostly be prevented.

Making sure that both the tractive unit and semi-trailer parking brake controls are used is the most effective way of making vehicle runaways less likely.

People in control of workplaces where trailers are parked need to make sure that drivers are aware that both tractive unit and semi-trailer parking brakes should be used when parking. Drivers' behaviour should be supervised and monitored.

Trailer parking brakes are there because they need to be, and must be used every time a vehicle and trailer are parked. You should consider signs, instruction and any other measures to make sure this happens.

Parking information

Society of Operations Engineers (SOE) - free download at Code of Practice – Coupling or uncoupling & Parking of Large Goods Vehicle Trailers

Are the vehicles braked and/or stabilised, as appropriate, to prevent unsafe movements during loading and unloading operations?

Vehicles should have suitable and effective brakes, both for general service and for parking.

It may be appropriate for you to make sure that people know about the way different types of vehicle move before they are allowed into an area where vehicles operate.

It is important to make sure that vehicles do not move when they are parked so that people who might be working on or around the vehicle are protected.

Systems to prevent vehicles from moving can either be built into the design of the vehicle or be site based.

The vehicle should be as level, stable and stationary as possible. All of the vehicle and trailer brakes should be applied and any stabilisers should always be used.

Are systems in place to prevent trucks driving away while they are still being (un)loaded?

Preventing vehicles from moving during loading and unloading operations can be important to make sure that people who might be working on or around the vehicle are protected.
People involved in loading or unloading often work close to moving lift trucks, which pose a high risk of hitting them or otherwise injuring them:

Ensure the vehicle or trailer has its brakes applied and all stabilisers are used. The vehicle should be as stable as possible.

Vehicles must never be overloaded. Overloaded vehicles can become unstable, difficult to steer or be less able to brake.

To maintain stability, vehicles and their trailers should be on firm ground, free from potholes or debris, which could make the vehicle unstable.

Simple control measures, such as directional signage, stop boards placed in front of delivery vehicles and most importantly the handing over of vehicle keys to yard marshals (have been introduced to ensure that vehicles cannot move around the yard without proper supervision.

Are lorry drivers and others kept in a safe place away from the vehicle while (un)loading is carried out? (See loading and unloading)

Traffic routes

By law, every workplace must be organised so that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate safely. Pedestrians and other people who are not involved in loading or unloading should be kept clear of passing traffic.

Pedestrian traffic routes should represent the paths people would naturally follow (often known as 'desire lines'), to encourage people to stay on them.

Three of the Ten tips for a safer site

Generally, parking and loading or unloading should be off the road and pavement, well away from members of the public. Loading or unloading over the pavement should be avoided, but where this is not possible a specific risk assessment should be carried out for the task.

Appropriate signs and road markings showing safety equipment, showing the areas pedestrians are not allowed in, and alerting people to loading and unloading operations should be in place and visible, wherever appropriate.

Segregating pedestrians from vehicle activity, preferably by making routes entirely separate, is the most effective way of protecting them.

For more information see –

Workplace transport safety - An employer's guide (HSG136)

Is there a safe area marked where drivers can observe loading (if necessary)? (See loading and unloading)

Where drivers need to observe the loading, they will need to be in a safe place to do this. This should be away from danger (for example away from moving vehicles, or places where loads could fall) and should be clearly marked.

Some sites do not allow drivers to stay in the vehicle during loading and unloading.

If drivers are not allowed in their vehicles, it is important that you provide them with a safe area to wait that allows them to rest effectively between driving shifts, especially where they may be waiting for several hours.

You should provide a safe place where drivers can wait if they are not involved.

No one should be around during loading or unloading if they are not needed.

It is often unrealistic and sometimes unsafe to expect drivers to stay in their cab while their vehicle is being loaded or unloaded. A designated safe area for visiting drivers with easy, safe access to toilet and refreshment facilities reduces risks considerably. A safe area may be needed for drivers to watch the loading or unloading.

Workers who do need to be in the same area as loading or unloading (for example people who are involved in the work) should be segregated from vehicle movement wherever this can reasonably be achieved, and specific systems of work should be applied to make sure the driver does not move the vehicle unless everyone involved is known to be in a safe place.

Loading and unloading areas should be clear of passing traffic, pedestrians and other people who are not involved in loading or unloading.

Has the need for people to go on to the load area of the vehicle been eliminated where possible and if not is safe access provided and used?

Falls from vehicles (links to the National Archives)

Is appropriate lifting equipment available for (un)loading vehicles?

Loading and unloading will often involve mechanical lifting. By law, you must make sure that all lifting operations are properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out safely.

Lifting equipment needs to be suitable for its use, marked with its safe working load, properly maintained, inspected appropriately and thoroughly examined regularly.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 -

Regulation 4: Duties of Employers -
Avoidance of Manual Handling
Regulation 4(1)(a)
Each employer shall - so far as is reasonably practicable avoid the need for employees to undertake manual handling operations, which involve a risk of their being injured.

Regulation 4(1)(b)(i): Assessment of Risk

Regulation 4(1)(b) -
Each employer must - where manual handling cannot be avoided make a suitable and sufficient assessment of all normal handling operations.
Schedule 1 to the Regulations specifies factors, which must be considered when conducting an assessment. These are:

  1. The tasks
  2. The loads
  3. The working environment
  4. Individual capacity
  5. Other factors

Is loading/unloading carried out so that, as far as possible, the load is spread evenly to avoid the vehicle or trailer becoming unstable? (Department of Transport Code of Practice – safety of loads on vehicles)

Wherever possible during loading, follow these principles:

Are checks made to ensure the load is adequately secured in line with the Department for Transport Code of Practice and not loaded beyond their capacity before the vehicle leaves the site?

The most suitable securing method should be used for different types of load.

Operators should make sure they have the correct securing equipment for the types of load carried. Where general cargoes are carried, various types should be available.

Clamps, special bolts, steel-wire ropes, chains, webbing harnesses, sheets, nets, ropes and shoring bars are all suitable to secure loads, but it is essential to make sure that they are strong enough for the weight of the loads carried.

Sheeting rope hooks should never be used to secure loads. They are not designed to bear heavy loads and may be in the wrong position to secure a load safely.

Department of Transport

Department of Transport Code of Practice – (free download)
Safety of Loads on Vehicles - ISBN 0 11 552547 5
Third edition (123 pages)
Guidance for drivers who are carrying loads on vehicles including how to secure a load, unloading and driving the vehicle along with other road users and pedestrians.

Updated 2021-05-11