Lorry loading safety

Lorry loading safety

As the owner of any vehicle designed to carry goods – whether it is a large lorry or a relatively smaller van – you are responsible for the safety of any employees and of members of the public not just when it is being driven on the road.

Employees and members of the public may be similarly at risk during the potentially dangerous period that the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded – and you remain responsible.

In order to comply with the conditions of your lorry or van insurance you are typically required to exercise all reasonable precautions when exercising this duty of care towards others. So, how might you make your lorry (or van) loading safer?

  • according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), one of the more dangerous times during loading or unloading may arise if the vehicle is moved too early, catching operators or bystanders by surprise – in order to minimise this risk it is suggested that the ignition keys to the vehicle are kept in the pocket of the person in charge until all loading has been completed and the necessary paperwork signed over;
  • selecting a safe place from which to carry out any loading and unloading is important – it needs to be free of other moving vehicles, those who are not involved in the work at hand and members of the public;
  • the loading area also needs to be on level ground, firmly compacted or paved and clear of any overhead power cables;
  • in order to achieve as much vehicle stability as possible, the brakes on the vehicle and any trailer need to be applied and any purpose-designed stabilisers employed;
  • the security of any load to be carried by the lorry or van is clearly important – ensuring that the cargo is not able to slide around or fall off the vehicle;
  • the security of loads is a matter of concern not only for the HSE and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSP), but also for the industry’s own organisation, the Road Hauliers’ Association (RHA) which remains in discussion with official agencies about current thinking on securing loads on vehicles;
  • typically, this is a question of ensuring not only that the vehicle is never overloaded, but also that the load is properly secured with all necessary ties, braces, webbing, side-curtains, sideboards and tailgates;
  • there may be occasions when there is no option but for an unusual load to overhang sideboards or the tailgate – in such circumstances the overhang should be as little as possible and the relevant parts of the load clearly marked;
  • at the end of a journey, prior to unloading, it is important to check that the load has not shifted whilst the vehicle is on the road and that no part of it is likely to fall or slip when any restraining webbing or ties are removed.

Ensuring the safety of those involved in the loading and unloading of your vehicle is an important responsibility. If you are held liable for personal injury to or the loss or damage of the property of someone during the process of loading or unloading, you may face a steep claim in compensation. Any insurance cover you may have to help protect against such claims is almost certain to include the provision of your exercising your duty of care.