Vehicle-based access to vehicles

Key messages

  • Drivers should be able to get safely and easily to any parts of the vehicle they need to reach.
  • There should be safeguards to prevent drivers reaching dangerous parts of the vehicle.

Ladders or steps

Ladders or steps on vehicles should be well built, properly maintained and securely fixed. Wherever possible, avoid using suspended steps. If you cannot avoid using them, use rubber or cable suspension ladders, not ladders made of chains. Ladders and steps should slope inwards towards the top if this is reasonably practicable. They should not lean outwards towards the top.

Rungs or steps on vehicles should have the same features as those on site-based ladders or stairs. This means that they should:

  • be level and comfortable to use
  • have a slip-resistant surface; and
  • should not allow, for example, mud, grease or oil to build up dangerously (for example, grating could be used to allow debris to pass through a step).

The first rung or step should be easy to reach from the ground – ideally about 40 cm, and never more than 70 cm.

If fixed to a vehicle, ladders or steps should be placed on the front or back of the part of the vehicle that needs to be accessed, as close to the relevant part of the vehicle as possible.

Opening (and holding open) a cab door on a vehicle should not force a driver to break the 'three-point hold' rule or to move to an unsafe position.

Access doesn't always have to be through the side of the semi-trailer or the cab. The 'fifth wheel' area behind the cab of a tractive unit can be used as long as:

  • there is a properly designed cover;
  • there is nothing in the area that might lead to a person slipping or tripping, such as tools or ropes.


Wherever possible, walkways should be used. Walkways should be made of slip-resistant grating (with enough space for mud or oil to pass through the grate and away from the walking surface) or another slip-resistant material.

Position walkways, steps, ladders, handrails away from wheels if possible, to prevent thrown mud from making them slippery. Mudguards can also help to keep them clean.


Top and middle guardrails can protect people when they are standing or crouching. Think about collapsible rails that lock on to the access ladder.


If features are retrofitted to existing vehicles, the alterations must not affect the structure of the equipment and the fitting must be safe (for example, welding on to petrol tankers might be unsafe).

Lift trucks are sometimes used to lift people. Although some vehicles are designed with this in mind (for example, 'man up/man down'-type picking vehicles), many lift trucks are not.

If a lift truck has not been designed specifically for this, it must be used to lift people only with purpose designed working platforms, securely fixed to the vehicle and inspected by a competent person. Pallets should never be used as substitute working platforms.


Find out more about :

Working platforms (non-integrated) on forklift trucks (HSE guidance note 28 3rd revision December 2005)

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Updated 2021-12-14