Avoidable Loading Accidents

26 September 2017

HSE Statistics reveal that “Unsafe loads on vehicles injure more than 1,200 people a year and cost UK businesses millions of pounds in damaged goods.”

Unfortunately many of the injuries are very avoidable. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are reasonably safe at work. The injuries occur typically because people and loads can fall; loads shift forward during transit particularly under braking; vehicles roll over when not properly loaded; errors are made by colleagues during loading and unloading operations.

The HSE has published guidance for employers to ensure that these should be mitigated so far as possible in order to ensure reasonable safety at work. Training is often the cornerstone of such mitigation of risk, but additional steps can also make employees safer.

The load should be properly secured, either by restraining it by tying it down firmly to the load bed, or should be contained to ensure that it cannot move around the vehicle. If a load has moved and cannot be safely unloaded the HSE are strict in their advice that an employee must know they can contact their depot for loading advice or if necessary assistance. 

The method of loading and unloading must also be planned, to reduce the risk of injury. This includes having a load plan with the employee.

Consideration should be given to prevention of falls form height when unloading, preventing or managing spillages particularly in loading areas, safe manual handling and the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.

Unfortunately we have witnessed the serious effect of loading accidents on a number of occasions. Each of these could have been avoided meaning that life changing impact could have been avoided.

Examples include:

• A cable reel that fell from a works van causing life changing injuries to one of the client’s legs that led ultimately to his retirement on grounds of injury.

• A client who was injured in a loading bay, caused by the negligence of a fellow worker, which resulted in onset of complex regional pain syndrome.

Each of these cases saw awards of damages exceeding £200,000. For employers this could have been avoided by safer practices. For the clients (employees) their life was changed unnecessarily.

Avoidance of accidents is always preferable to trying to put a life back together after serious injury. However when accidents do occur it is necessary to obtain specialist legal advice.

The Employers and Public Liability Team is led by Andrew Bell, Partner. The team provides expert advice and support on these often complex claims, from tripping and slipping cases to fatal accidents in the workplace. We are regularly instructed in cases exceeding £500,000 in value.