Falling from a vehicle is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries. They can occur for a whole host of reasons, many of which could be easily prevented if more due care and attention was given.
Clambering on top of loads, slippery platforms and surfaces and ladders which are unsuited to the job or are unstable are just some of the reasons why people get injured due to a fall from a vehicle. It is every employer’s responsibility to try to minimise the risk of such events happening and should form part of their overall risk assessment strategy.
Wherever it’s possible, an employer should try to eliminate the need for climbing onto vehicles in the first place. Loading platforms such as using a fork lift truck or a hoist for loading and unloading vehicles are two obvious examples. However, this is not always possible so the next best thing is to look at those areas where improvements could be made and having them put in place.
Examples might include having walkways which have guard rails on either side and situating controls and other gauges which can be operated from ground level as opposed to the driver having to climb up onto the vehicle to operate them. Some companies even install harness systems which drivers wear and which are linked to rails overhead so that they cannot physically fall from the vehicle should they lose their footing.
Use of Ladders
Ladders that are inappropriate in design for the job and those which are poorly maintained are one of the biggest ‘culprits’ when it comes to people falling from vehicles. They should be securely fixed and have rungs which are horizontal and are ample in width to gain a good foothold. Many people whose work involves loading and unloading vehicles need to wear thick, cumbersome safety boots and, much of the time, the ladders they use are simply not designed for that kind of footwear, resulting in them slipping off the ladder.
Driver Duty of Care and Responsibility
It’s not just about the unsuitability of certain equipment, however. A vast number of falls from vehicles occurs because the drivers themselves do not take extra care. Drivers need to take more responsibility for their own safety. Many often jump down from their cabs instead of using the handrails and steps that are available to them. This can cause injuries such as a broken ankle and, over time, their knees are likely to suffer from long term damage.
Drivers should look down when they are climbing out of their vehicle and check for things like potholes, kerbs and other hazards which could be potentially damaging. They should also wear slip resistant footwear and make sure the soles are kept clean and free from the likes of diesel, oil and mud etc. which may be present underfoot. Those who drive refrigerated vehicles should be aware of the slippery surfaces caused by ice.
It’s usually the drivers themselves who are the first to become aware of the dangers from falling from their vehicle, often as the result of a near mishap. Whilst this may be sometimes put down to their own negligence, on occasion, it will be the inappropriate equipment they are using or perhaps a defect with the vehicle itself that presents a potential safety hazard. In such instances, they should report this to their health and safety officer as well as feeling able to offer any suggestions that would make their job safer. Thorough consultation with drivers and others who are responsible for loading and unloading vehicles where falls could occur should always form part of any effective risk assessment procedure.
And, although it may seem obvious to state the fact, you should never attempt to join a vehicle which is already moving. This practice is probably one of the most significant factors in the number of injuries which happen each year when considering the reasons why people fall from vehicles.