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Safety of loads on vehicles

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It is important all loads carried on vehicles are secured, whatever the journey. Loading and unloading can be dangerous. Poorly secured loads may spill or fall leading to injury or death.

 

  • Principles of load safety

    • When a vehicle changes direction - cornering on roundabouts, overtaking etc, friction is not enough to stop unsecured cargo from moving. It is wrong to assume that the weight of the load will keep it in position. In fact heavier loads are more likely to move when the vehicle is in motion due to their kinetic energy being greater. Under heavy braking the weight acting in a forward direction can be equal to that acting down on the vehicle. Therefore, a load that is not restrained will not be secure. 
    • The forces acting on the load during braking increase with the rate of deceleration and the weight of the load. So, when the vehicle brakes the load will want to continue to move in its original direction. The heavier the load and the harder you brake, the more the load will try to move.
    • Friction alone cannot be relied upon to keep the load in place. When the vehicle is moving, vertical movement caused by bumps will reduce any restraining force due to friction. This can reduce to zero if the load even momentarily leaves the bed of the truck.
    • It requires much more force to stop a load that has started moving than it does to prevent movement in the first place. This 'battering ram' effect increases rapidly with the increase in distance through which the load moves relative to the vehicle. It is essential therefore that the load is restrained in such a way that movement of the load on the vehicle is prevented.
    • The basic principle is that the combined strength of the load restraint system must be sufficient to withstand a force not less than the total weight of the load forward, so as to prevent the load moving under severe braking, and half of the weight of the load backwards and sideways. Vertical movement may occur but this should be overcome if the above conditions are met. This applies to all vehicles no matter what the size, from small vans to the largest goods vehicles. These principles are based on the maximum forces that are likely to be experienced during normal road use. Greater forces may be encountered if the vehicle, for example, is involved in an accident. The principles should therefore be regarded as minimum requirements.
  • Choice of Vehicle

    • It is the vehicle operator's responsibility to provide suitable vehicles and securing equipment for each load carried and to ensure that drivers and loading staff are competent and have received sufficient instruction in its use. It is the driver's duty to check and ensure that the load is adequately secured at all times, not just at the start of the journey. This is especially true after a violent manoeuvre such as heavy braking or swerving. It should be noted that with certain bed materials such as aluminium, frictional forces helping to restrain the load could be lower than expected, this is also true if the bed is wet.
    • The design and construction of the vehicle and its bodywork should be suitable for the loads that it is likely to carry, particularly in terms of the characteristics and strengths of the materials used. Anti corrosion treatments of load bearing components are highly desirable. When a vehicle is to be carried on a ship, as in ferry operations, provision should be made for the extra load restraint needed and for chassis anchorage points to secure the vehicle to the deck.
    • The maximum expected load on the vehicle floor should be known so that the floor itself and the section and spacing of supporting crossbeams is sufficient. Strength calculations should account not only for the load itself but also any extra forces due to the loading method, e.g.: the use of forklift trucks on the floor during loading and unloading.
    • The relationship between the vehicle's wheelbase, body length and body overhang should be carefully considered in relation to the composition of the loads to be carried especially if full use is to be made of permitted maximum axle loads.
    • There are many factors in the choice of vehicle for carriage of dangerous goods. Flatbed vehicles may be used provided that the goods are properly secured. Strong cages fitted to vehicles will help prevent shedding of goods onto the carriageway. Before dangerous goods are carried, any relevant publications should be consulted.
    • Where a vehicle is to carry a number of small loose items, e.g. a builder's truck, the bodywork should be higher than the load and be strong enough to prevent any part of the load from breaking through. In addition, the risk of any part of the load being blown off or jumping out due to bumps should also be considered.
  • Arrangement of loads

    • Before a vehicle is loaded, it should be checked to ensure that its load platform, bodywork, and anchorage points (and twist locks where fitted), are appropriate for the load, and are in a sound and serviceable condition.
    • It is a legal requirement that the maximum permitted axle and gross weight limits are not exceeded. Where a part of the load is to be picked up or removed in the course of a journey, the effect on gross weight, individual axle weights and on the securing and stability of the load must not be overlooked. Although removal of part of the load will reduce the gross vehicle weight the change in weight distribution may cause individual axles to become overloaded, (Commonly referred to as the diminishing load effect). This should be considered when loading.
    • If practicable, the load should be placed in contact with a headboard. Where this is not practicable then additional means of securing must be used. Possible methods include:
      • Effectively moving the headboard rearwards, i.e. fitting an obstacle across the vehicle platform which should be firmly attached to the chassis frame.
      • Blocks, scotches, bolsters or wedges to prevent individual items of a load moving in any direction. Care must be taken to ensure that these are adequately secured to the vehicle platform.
      • Additional lashing.
      • In the case of a van, straps secured to the vehicle body should be used.
    • In order to achieve maximum vehicle stability the load should be placed so that the centre of gravity is kept as low as practicable and near to the vehicle's centre line. This means that, where possible:
      • The load should be spread to give an even weight distribution over the whole floor area.
      • When a load is stacked the larger and heavier items should be placed at the bottom. 
      • The heavier items should be placed nearer to the centre line of the vehicle and the lighter ones towards the sides.
      • When a load is stacked the lower packages should be strong enough to support the others when the vehicle is braking, cornering or accelerating.
    • The weight of heavy loads of small dimensions should be distributed across the vehicle platform by the use of load spreading devices. (e.g.. pallets, large wooden board etc.)
    • A vehicle carrying a load or a vehicle fitted with a special appliance or apparatus that overhangs the load area may require special markings. If there is a rearward projection between 1m and 2m the overhang must be made clearly visible to other road users. It should be noted that in some circumstances it will be necessary to notify the police before the vehicle can run on public roads.
  • Loading and Unloading

    • Loading and unloading areas should be:
      • Clear of other traffic, pedestrians and people not involved in loading or unloading.
      • Clear of overhead electric cables so there is no chance touching them, or of electricity jumping to 'earth' through machinery, loads or people.
      • Level. To maintain stability, trailers should be parked on firm level ground.
      • Loads should be spread as evenly as possible, during both loading and unloading. Uneven loads can make the vehicle or trailer unstable.
      • Loads should be secured, or arranged so that they do not slide around. Racking may help stability.
      • Safety equipment must be considered. Mechanical equipment and heavy moving loads are dangerous.
      • Guards or skirting plates may be necessary if there is a risk of anything being caught in machinery (for example dock levellers or vehicle tail lifts). There may be other mechanical dangers and safety procedures to be considered.
      • Ensure the vehicle or trailer has its brakes applied and all stabilisers are used. The vehicle should be as stable as possible.
      • In some workplaces it may be possible to install a harness system to protect people working at height. Provide a safe place where drivers can wait if they are not involved. Drivers should not remain in their cabs if this can be avoided. No-one should be in the loading/unloading area if they are not needed.
      • Vehicles must never be overloaded. Overloaded vehicles can become unstable, difficult to steer or be less able to brake.
      • Always check the floor or deck of the loading area before loading to make sure it is safe. Look out for debris, broken boarding, etc.
      • Loading should allow for safe unloading.
    • Loads must be suitably packaged. When pallets are used, the driver needs to check that:
      • They are in good condition.
      • Loads are properly secured to them.
      • Loads are safe on the vehicle. They may need to be securely attached to make sure they cannot fall off.
    • Tailgates and sideboards must be closed when possible. If over-hang cannot be avoided, it must be kept to a minimum. The over-hanging part of the load must be clearly marked.
    • If more than one company is involved, they should agree in advance how loading and unloading will happen.
    • If visiting drivers unload their vehicles themselves, they must receive the necessary instructions, equipment and co-operation for safe unloading. Arrangements will need to be agreed in advance between the haulier and the recipient.
    • Some goods are difficult to secure during transport. Hauliers and recipients will need to exchange information about loads in advance so that they can agree safe unloading procedures. Check's must be made before unloading to make sure loads have not shifted during transit, and are not likely to move or fall when restraints are removed.
  • Work equipment

    • To fulfil your duties under The Health and Safety at Work (General) (Guernsey) Ordinance, 1987 when providing work equipment you must ensure it is:
      • Suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is to be used.
      • Maintained in a safe condition for use so that people's health and safety is not at risk.
      • Inspected, in certain circumstances, to ensure that it is and continues to be safe for use. Any inspection should be carried out by a competent person (this could be an employee if they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task) and a record kept until the next inspection.
    • All equipment used for securing loads should be regularly inspected for wear or damage. Inspection arrangements should be in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Special attention should be paid to webbing and rope to ensure that there is no visible deterioration due to constant use, such as fraying of the strands.
  • Risk assessment

    • Risk assessment is a legal requirement that helps you to identify issues and take reasonably practicable steps to control the risks. This should help reduce the chances of problems occurring, but you should think about what happens if the load shifts in transit. 
  • Training

    • It is important to keep training records for each employee. These should include enough information to be able to identify the employee, the full training history, planned training, and a copy or details of any certificates or qualifications gained.
    • As an employer, if you are satisfied that an employee is competent to use a type of vehicle safely, you can store these details and refer to them when necessary to make sure that employees are trained and competent before being allowed to operate particular vehicles. This could be a simple document with details of the types of vehicles (or the specific vehicles) that a person is competent to operate.
    • People should not be authorised to drive or operate any vehicle or equipment unless the employer is satisfied that the person is competent and they have sufficient means to demonstrate their competence.
  • Supervision

    • As an employer you are responsible for ensuring the level of supervision is sufficient to ensure that safe standards are maintained.
    • You must ensure your employees drive with care and load and unload safely.
    • You must ensure your vehicles are not being loaded beyond their capacity.
    • You must check that vehicles are safe and suitable for the work for which they are being used.
  • Vehicle maintenance 

    • You must check that vehicles are maintained properly.
    • You should have a regular preventative maintenance programme for every vehicle, carried out at set times or mileage (eg in accordance with manufacturer's instructions).
    • You should have a system for reporting faults on the vehicle and associated equipment and carrying out remedial work.
    • Where vehicle attachments lift people or objects, thorough examinations must be carried out by a competent person.
    • Drivers must carry out basic safety checks before using the vehicles.
  • Thorough examination

    • The Safety of Employees (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance 1952 require that all lifting equipment, including lorry loaders, are thoroughly examined by a competent person in the following circumstances:
      • At regular intervals (a period not exceeding 12 months, if persons are not lifted, or a period not exceeding 6 months if persons are lifted)
      • After any major alteration or damage (event).
    • The thorough examination of lorry loaders should be undertaken by a competent person who has such appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined as will enable them to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the lifting equipment.
    • The lorry loader operator should arrange for the lorry loader to be taken out of use for a sufficient period of time to allow the competent person to carry out the thorough examination.
    • The lorry loader operator should ensure that facilities or services which are required by the competent person to carry out the thorough examination are provided and a safe system of work should be in place to prevent all persons involved in thorough examination from being exposed to danger. It is essential that the calibration of a lorry loader's RCI/L is verified as part of the thorough examination.
  • Load restraint system

    • The combined strength of the load restraint system must be sufficient to withstand a forwards force not less than the total weight of the load to prevent the load moving under severe braking, and half the weight of the load moving backwards and sideways.
    • Even at low speeds, the forces acting on a load when the vehicle is moving can be high enough for the load to move. Heavy loads can and do move and the weight of the load alone should never be relied on to hold the load in place. Once moving, forces to prevent the load from continuing to move are much higher than if the load was static.
    • Whatever method you choose, the load restraint system needs to secure the load to the vehicle chassis and prevent movement. Choose a securing system that stops the load moving without creating other risks - like unnecessary manual handling and working at height.
    • Webbing ratchet straps can be used to secure most types of load, but you must know how to use and store them properly. When you're not using ratchet straps you should store them in a weatherproof compartment, so they don't get damaged or degrade.
    • Ratchet straps need to be strong enough to support the loads they are carrying. So, before you secure any load, you need to know its weight and force limits and the corresponding load limit on the straps you're using. If the straps are not secure enough, you're breaking the law if you use them. Your strap should come with a label which has the relevant information on it. This will be written as the lashing capacity, or LC, and is measured in decanewtons, which are equivalent to kilograms.
    • You also need to make sure you have enough straps for the load you're transporting. Pallets and other materials in rows, such as boxes and stillages need to have at least one strap per row. If you are transporting pipes or poles, then you need to use loop lashing as this will secure the load better when in transit.
    • There should be at least one strap every 1.5m along the length of the load.
    • Strappings must be protected against abrasion and or cutting using corner protectors or protective sleeves.
    • You should never use a knot in any part of the strap and you always need to inspect your straps for signs of damage or wear. Cuts, tears or other kinds of damage can lead to your strap being weakened and not up to the job.
  • Anchorage Points

    • It is common practice to use the rope hooks found on most platform vehicles, welded or bolted to the underside of the side rail or outriggers, as the anchor points for the load restraint systems. Rope hooks should not be used to anchor loads. Rope hooks are not subject to constructional standards, and so they vary in strength, size and material content and are rarely designed to withstand forces exceeding about 1-1.5 tonnes. Many fall far short of this strength being so weak that they can be distorted by applying a ratchet buckle to tighten a webbing strap. For this reason it is desirable to equip vehicles, particularly those with platform bodies, with dedicated load anchorage points. These should be designed and integrated into the structure so that the forces imposed on them are transmitted to the main chassis frame of the vehicle
    • Lashing points should comply with British Standard BS EN 12640:2001.
    • Load anchorage points should be rated at capacities of 0.5 tonne, 1.0 tonne or 2.0 tonne and upward. The capacity of each anchorage point should be indicated on the vehicle and the vehicle manufacturer or bodybuilder should provide information on the capacity of each anchorage point. The design and construction must allow a safety factor of twice the specified capacity acting in any direction through which the lashing can be attached.
    • Sufficient load anchorage points should be provided. The sum of the capacity of the anchorage points on both sides of the vehicle (assuming that they are evenly distributed) should not be less than the maximum rated load of the vehicle. There should be a minimum of 3 on each side.
    • The number of anchorage points used on a particular journey will depend on the weight and dimensions of the load being carried and its location on the platform in relation to the headboard or other additional means of restraint.

Fatal and serious injuries do not usually 'just happen'. Generally, there are some minor incidents and near misses beforehand.

Reporting these and other issues - such as restricted access to delivery sites - can help prevent a more serious situation in the future.

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