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Crush incidents when loading/unloading

In January, an interstate truck driver suffered multiple leg fractures when a stone slab fell off the back of a truck. It appears the stone was secured to an 'A' frame with straps. Early investigations indicate that when the driver removed the straps, the stone slabs toppled and struck him.

In February, a truck driver suffered severe crush injuries when a pack of timber boards being delivered to a timber yard fell onto him. Early investigations indicate the pack of timber caught onto an adjacent one when being unloaded. It caused the strapping to snap and the timber fell onto the driver.

Preventing a similar incident

Loading and unloading trucks at workplaces can be hazardous, depending on the type of material being handled, nature of the task, and the weather conditions. The site location may also present other unique risks, including varying terrain and people near of the load/unload area.

While there is considerable guidance for securing loads to prevent them from moving while a truck is driving on a road, there is less guidance on controlling the risk of preventing loads moving while loading or unloading.

In situations where materials (such as stone slabs and packs of timber) are delivered, a safe system of work for loading and unloading trucks should be implemented and maintained.

Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:

Identify hazards - find out what could cause harm.

Assess risks - understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.

Control risks - implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

Review - asses control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

You must always aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or a combination of the following:

Elimination - the most effective control measure is to remove the hazard or hazardous work practice associated with loading/unloading.

Isolation – separate people from mobile plant using barriers, fences or other similar options. Where possible, workers should not access the loading/receiving area when forklifts or other mobile plant are operating during the load/unload process. Creating dedicated waiting areas for truck drivers (consider a separate area or room) and ensuring the driver doesn't leave the area otherwise loading/receiving activities will cease. PCBU's have a responsibility to ensure all exclusion zones and unloading procedures are communicated and followed by workers.

Engineering controls - for example, using mobile plant designed for the task (purpose-designed equipment suitable for construction sites). Ensure the mobile plant and any attachments are used in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and suitable for the load being lifted. Where possible, use level ground to minimise the risk of the cargo becoming unstable during loading/unloading.

Administrative controls - if risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls. For example:

  • develop and maintain a traffic management plan, safe work procedures and provide training for workers
  • implement and enforce exclusion zones where no-one places themselves between the load and the truck or trailer and lifting equipment that may arise during loading or unloading (e.g. other vehicle, tree, concrete retaining wall)
  • operators loading or unloading construction materials are trained, competent and correctly supervised
  • inspect the load prior to unloading to identify any potential movement of materials.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) - consider using high-visibility or reflective clothing, hard hats and steel cap boots.

Adopting and implementing higher order controls such as elimination, substitution and isolation through engineering, before considering administrative or PPE controls, will significantly reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring. The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.


From 1 July 2014 to 14 February 2020, there were 63 incidents involving a crush injury sustained, or the risk of a crush injury being sustained, from objects falling off trucks. Of these, there were 38 events (60%) involving injury or illness requiring a person to have in hospital treatment.

For the same period, 275 improvement notices and 83 prohibition notices were issued for offences involving injuries sustained by, or managing the risk of, a crush incident due to loads falling from trucks.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2018, a timber company was fined $210,000 after a truck driver was fatally crushed while delivering product. Using a forklift, a worker was unloading from one side of the truck, with the driver releasing a loading strap out of direct sight on the other side. The forklift dislodged a load of timber which fell and crushed the truck driver.

In 2017, a company was fined $35,000 when a worker sustained a fractured ankle and torn ligaments and tendons when a load on the rear trailer of a road train destabilised after another worker used a forklift to remove a pallet. A 9-metre-long pack of timber weighing 274 kg dislodged from the top of the trailer's load, falling onto the worker standing on the opposite side to the forklift operator.

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