Vehicle Movement-Related Hazards
Depending on the conditions and the environment, vehicles moving around workplaces are a hazard to:
- Other vehicles (and their occupants).
- The driver (and other occupants).
Vehicle accidents are responsible for many serious and fatal injuries and also cause a significant amount of property and equipment damage. You will find the various hazards related to vehicle movement listed below, along with some typical conditions and environments in which each hazard might arise:
Driving too fast – often associated with driver error – is a major cause of vehicle collisions and vehicles overturning. The effects of driving too fast are worsened by movements across uneven ground, sloping surfaces and around bends. Loads may move as a result of abnormal movements and may fall from vehicles. Braking when driving too fast may be ineffective and more hazardous on wet, icy or slippery surfaces.
Reversing – limits a driver’s vision and puts the whole length of a vehicle in the direction of travel. Without rearvision devices (such as cameras) the driver’s vision may be impaired; without reversing alarms, pedestrians may not see or hear the approach of a reversing vehicle.
Operation of machinery – not only are vehicle engines now more quiet, but auxiliary machinery and equipment, such as loaders, cranes, refrigeration plant, etc. may also be quiet or silent, and therefore may not be heard by pedestrians or other drivers.
Poor visibility – especially around loads, wide or long vehicles, or while vehicles reverse – causes many collisions. Vehicle entrance and exit points also create blind spots and changes in light levels.
Vehicles do not only present a hazard when they are moving. Some vehicle hazards occur when other types of activity are being carried out on the vehicle:
Loading – both manual and mechanical loading of vehicles can create risk, e.g. the manual-handling risk associated with lifting crates into the back of a lorry, or the risk of collision when loading a flat-bed lorry using a forklift truck.
Overloading – exceeding the safe working limit of the vehicle can result in significant risks. This could be due to driver error, or through a lack of knowledge about the capabilities of the vehicle or the nature of the load. An unbalanced load can also destabilise the vehicle.
Unloading – both manual and mechanical unloading can create risk, e.g. tipping operations can result in the vehicle overturning, or people being struck by the material being tipped.
Securing and sheeting – when workers have to climb onto a vehicle in order to secure the load, e.g. a driver might have to climb onto the top of a lorry to sheet over the load to prevent it blowing out when moving at speed. Alternatively, they may have to climb onto the top of a road tanker to close hatches. Both of these operations involve work at height.
Coupling – when vehicles are attached to trailers or other towed equipment, there is potential for collision and crushing.
Maintenance work – when mechanics have to access various parts of the vehicle and may have to work at height, or under the vehicle.