Staying safe when climbing in and out of vehicles

National Falls Awareness Week begins on 18th June, so this is a good time for transport companies to think about their risk management strategies. A number of hazardous activities can cause couriers to fall from their vehicles, and transport companies have a legal duty to attempt to prevent this.

The most common causes of falls from vehicles are:

•    Climbing on loads
•    Slippery surfaces
•    Uneven ladders or walkways
•    Using inappropriate parts of the vehicle as support

If possible, gauges and controls should be accessible from the ground so as couriers do not need to climb on top of vehicles. They should also consider installing permanent loading stations with fixed platforms at the depot. If it is practical to do so, a harness system can be installed to protect people working at height. A common type of safety harness is the ‘Inertia-Reel Fall-Arrest’ system, where the courier wears a harness that is linked to overhead rails.

When a courier does need to gain access to the top of a vehicle, it should be via a well-constructed ladder. Transport companies should ensure that couriers place the ladder as close to the relevant part of the vehicle as possible. Ladders should be properly maintained and securely fixed.

Wherever possible, delivery companies should install walkways to provide easy access to the tops of vehicles. All walkways should be made from non-slip materials, and collapsible handrails should be considered. Top and middle guardrails may also be required for protecting couriers who are carrying out tasks from a standing or crouching position.

Transport companies may need to fit additional safety features such as those outlined above, or alternatively they may need to find other means of access to vehicles. If features are retrofitted, transport companies must take care to ensure that alterations do not affect the structure of existing equipment.

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