Avoiding falls from workplace vehicles

What's the problem?

Falls from vehicles in the workplace are caused by a number of hazardous activities. Climbing on loads, slippery surfaces, uneven ladders or walkways or using inappropriate parts of the vehicle as support are among the more common causes.

Employers have legal duties to try to prevent falls, and should consider the following advice.


Access on to vehicles should be restricted to those people who have to do so

  • Consider locating gauges and controls that are accessible from the ground to stop drivers climbing on top of vehicles.
  • Is it possible to have permanent loading stations with fixed platforms?
  • Is it practical to install a harness system to protect people working at height, such as an 'Inertia-Reel Fall-Arrest' system, where harnesses are worn linked to overhead rails?

Where people have to gain access to the top of a vehicle:

  • Access should be via a well-constructed ladder. Ladders should:
    • Be placed on the front or back of the vehicle, as close to the relevant part of the vehicle as possible.
    • Be of sound construction, properly maintained and securely fixed.
    • Be vertical or slope inwards towards the top if possible.
    • Rungs should be horizontal and give plenty of toe or foothold.
  • Wherever possible, walkways should be used. Walkways should:
    • Be made of non-slip grating or another non-slip material.
    • Top and middle guardrails may be needed, for protecting people working standing or crouching.
    • Collapsible handrails are an option to be considered.
  • Operators may need to fit additional safety features such as those described, or finding alternative means of access. If features are retrofitted, care will need to be taken that alterations do not affect the structural integrity of the equipment, or that the actual operation of retrofitting is safe (for example welding onto petrol tankers might be very unsafe).

No one should ever attempt to join a moving vehicle. This is a significant cause of accidents each year.

Passengers should only be allowed on a vehicle if it is designed to accommodate them safely, with suitable seating.

Different employers working in the same place may have a legal obligation to co-ordinate their safety measures.

  • For example, where operations do have to happen higher up and permanent, safe access to the top of the vehicle cannot be achieved, an alternative means of safe access should be provided, such as a suitable set of step ladders at the destination provided by the site operator/retailer/etc.
  • See further guidance on this topic.

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