Preventing falls from vehicles
Falls from vehicles are among the most common accidents involving workplace transport.
By law, employers must take suitable and effective measures to:
- prevent anyone from falling a distance that is likely to hurt them; and
- prevent anyone from being hit by a falling object.
Causes of falls
Causes of falls include:
- slipping and falling from loads and access steps and ladders;
- broken ropes or torn sheets causing overbalancing;
- inappropriate footwear;
- bad weather; and
- lack of awareness and training.
Questions to ask
Your risk assessment should include the answers to these questions:
- What tasks might involve a person climbing on to a vehicle or a structure? (Include all activities, whether frequent, irregular, or less frequent)
- What are the risks of doing these tasks?
- Can you eliminate these risks?
- If not, how can you reduce these risks?
Eliminate the risk
Using gauges and controls that are accessible from the ground helps to eliminate the risk of falls. For example, where a road tanker delivers fuel to a petrol station, the employer of the delivery driver and the station operator should consider whether the driver needs to go on to the top of the vehicle to 'dip' or if the level of fuel can be measured from the ground.
Automatic sheeting systems (often known as 'easysheets') are another example of an effective way of avoiding the need for workers to climb on vehicles.
Minimise the risk
Only give permission to gain access on to vehicles to people who cannot avoid doing so.
If the work at height cannot be avoided, it is best for people to be protected by equipment and site or vehicle features that prevent falls. If equipment to prevent falls is used, the best solutions are those that protect everyone, not just individuals. If only one person is at risk, harness systems, for example, might be most appropriate.
Instruct and train workers to use the work equipment competently, and provide information for workers. Safe ways of working should always be part of managing risks.
Assess how much light there is for people climbing into or on to vehicles, or walking on vehicles. Poor visibility can lead to accidents. Hand-held lights or torches would not normally be an effective way of lighting places where people need to use their hands.
People climbing on to vehicles or other structures should always use the 'three-point hold' rule. This means they should try to keep at least three points of contact with the vehicle they are climbing (with their hands and feet), moving one limb at a time and testing the new hold before moving on. Looping an elbow around a support is not a secure enough hold – people should use their hands to grasp supports. The three-point hold rule is less important for people using stairs, although handholds are still important.
Tasks done from ladders or steps should allow the worker to keep the centre of their body between the sides of the ladder or steps, and both feet on the same rung or step. Only tasks that are of a short duration and are low risk should be done from ladders.
Find out more about:
- Workplace transport safety – an overview
- Workplace transport safety - An employer's guide
- Preventing falls from vehicles