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Worker seriously injured falling from trailer

In August 2020, a truck driver suffered serious injuries falling from his trailer.

Investigations are continuing.

IMPORTANT:

These findings are not yet confirmed and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.

Preventing a similar incident

The transport industry has a high rate of injuries and fatalities as a result of workers falling from trucks and trailers. The risks of these falls are commonly associated with the design of a vehicle, the equipment used and work practices.

Factors associated with the risks of falls from trucks and trailers include but are not limited to:

  • poorly designed ladders or steps
  • climbing at height to secure the load
  • climbing over or around oversized loads
  • jumping down from the trailer
  • using tyres as steps to climb onto the trailer
  • climbing on the top of a trailer where there are unprotected openings.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure the provision and maintenance of a safe system of work when loading and unloading trucks. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking.

Four steps to managing risk

Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process.

Risk management involves four steps:

  1. identify the hazard – find out what could cause harm
  2. assess the risk – 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
  3. control the risk – implement the most effective control measure reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  4. review risk controls – asses control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

Once the risks have been assessed, the next step is to control risks associated with falls from trucks and trailers. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control.

PCBUs must work through this hierarchy to choose the control which most effectively eliminates or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimises the risk.

Risk control measures can include:

Elimination

The most effective control measure is to remove the hazard or hazardous work practice associated with workers accessing a truck or trailer when loading or unloading.

This can include:

  • designing or modifying the trailer so the worker does not need to climb onto the truck or trailer (this could also be considered an engineering control). Examples include:
    • fuel and bulk-liquid tankers with valves, fittings and hoses located where filling and dispensing can be carried out from ground level
    • tip trucks and trailers fitted with ground-level tarping systems
    • tarping of general cargo can also be undertaken from ground level by using tarping gantries or tarp spreaders mounted on a forklift
      (Source: WorkSafe NSW)
  • where practicable, arrange the load so workers do not need to climb onto the trailer.

Isolation

Separate people from vehicles and mobile plant using barriers, fences or other similar options.

Examples include:

  • 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.

Engineering

This involves changing physical characteristics of the plant or work area to remove or reduce the risk.

Examples include:

  • using a mobile work platform or edge protection, such as guard rails on the trailer
  • using a suitable step ladder or portable handrail on the trailer
  • modify the trailer surface with a slip resistant material
  • installation of hand holds and foot holds at suitable heights and locations to allow three points of contact to be maintained, where practicable.

Administrative controls

If risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls.

For example, developing and implementing a safe system of work that may include:

  • safe work procedures for drivers, including support for drivers to contact their depot if they have concerns with a site
  • educating and training drivers on how to use the truck safely (i.e. induct drivers and ensure new drivers are appropriately supervised)
  • provide information about new customer sites to drivers
  • load multi-drop deliveries in sequence so workers can easily access items at each stop, where practicable.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Consider using high-visibility or reflective clothing and suitable footwear with adequate slip resistance.

Adopting and implementing higher order controls such as elimination and 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.

More information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?

For advice and support: