Dispute Resolution (work life)

Logistics health and safety laws

Logistics and haulage companies have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years. From considerable post Brexit-disruption, inflated fuel prices and other cost increases to substantial driver shortages. Given these onerous external pressures, it is perhaps unsurprising that good health and safety practices can be overlooked or neglected.

Many see health and safety as endless paperwork, red tape, expense and rules that are difficult to understand. However, an employer has a legal duty to make sure that people are safe in the workplace they control, even where they are employed by others or are members of the public. Controlling health and safety risks can be achieved with a little effort and as a result, many accidents can be prevented.

It can be a daunting prospect to consider hazards and risks, but the HSE, Logistics UK, and the Road Haulage Association all provide guidance that can assist you in this process.

The logistics and haulage sector has a lot of moving parts ranging from people and vehicles operating alongside each other, the loading and unloading of vehicles and the distribution of goods. Not all hazards involve operational activities. They also include tasks like cleaning, refuelling, replacing propane cylinders, using high-pressure water hoses and detergents to clean vehicles or carrying out vehicle maintenance activities.

It is vital to have a comprehensive understanding of your responsibility as an employer.

Where to start with logistics health and safety arrangements

The starting point is by examining what actually goes on in your business, removing and controlling hazards as far as possible and taking the necessary managerial and supervisory steps to make sure what is supposed to happen does happen.

A hazard is simply something that can cause harm. Risk is the chance of anyone suffering harm from a hazard. For example, a slippery path is a hazard. The more slippery it is, and the more people walk along it, the greater the risk of someone falling and injured.

The language can be confusing – but focus on the basic common sense factors and focus on whether something could cause harm.

Common areas of risk within the logistics sector are:

Pedestrians and vehicles – health and safety

Segregation is the key message and every workplace should be organised so that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate safely by keeping well clear of one another.

Vehicle movements in the workplace require careful management to control and reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring. Every site, every yard and every warehouse are different in terms of layout, operations and vehicle movements and each will present its own hazards and risks. However, a well-designed and maintained site with suitable segregation of vehicles and pedestrians will make workplace transport accidents less likely. When considering traffic routes, the guidance highlights the following should be considered.

  • the vehicles being used,
  • minimising the need for reversing,
  • avoiding sharp bends and blind corners,
  • maintenance – do not allow potholes to develop,
  • anything that can affect load stability e.g., steep slopes.

The most effective way of ensuring vehicles and pedestrians move safely around a workplace is to provide separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes. Where possible, there should be a one-way system as this will reduce the need for vehicles to reverse and will help pedestrians and vehicle drivers.

Often complete segregation within warehouses or within yard areas is not possible or practical and therefore the regulations would require employers to have clearly marked pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes, using measures such as barriers, signs and marked routes.

Vehicle maintenance – health and safety

Vehicles should be maintained in good working order in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, so they remain mechanically sound and function properly.

Planned inspections are a vital part of preventative maintenance. These may include daily safety checks carried out by drivers and regular maintenance inspections based on time or mileage. Drivers should be provided with a list of the daily checks to be signed off at the start of each shift. This should be monitored to ensure the checks are carried out properly and acted upon if any defects are reported.

You should have:

  • a documented pre-shift check,
  • a system for reporting defects and for ensuring that remedial work is carried out,
  • a planned routine maintenance system,
  • a thorough examination/safety inspection regime for each truck.

Loading and unloading - – health and safety

Minimising the risks associated with loading and unloading activities can require the careful consideration of multiple assessments. For example, the hazards will vary depending on the type of vehicle involved (e.g., rigid container, curtainsider, flatbed truck etc), where it is being loaded or unloaded (e.g., at a dock, in the middle of the yard) and the type of load involved (e.g., is it being handballed, does it have to be moved using a mechanical aid?).

To minimise the risks to those involved in loading and unloading, information should be provided on the nature of the load and how it should be properly loaded, secured and unloaded. Make sure vehicles and trailers have their brakes applied and all stabilisers are in

the correct position before loading or unloading. There should be a safe place where drivers can wait throughout loading and unloading. Make sure you take measures to prevent vehicles from being driven off during either loading or unloading at loading bays. These can include measures such as traffic lights on loading bays or vehicle or trailer restraints.

This information should accompany the load and be available to those involved in the loading, transportation and unloading activities. The loading and unloading area should be clear of traffic and people not involved in the activity. It should be undertaken on level ground and away from other work activities.

Prior to any loading or unloading consideration should be given to the location to ensure there is no risk from overhead cables, pipes and other obstructions.

For risk assessments to be “suitable and sufficient,” you will need to consider all these permutations so that you can develop safe systems of work (sometimes known as standard operations procedures or work instructions) to ensure every worker understands how that activity should be carried out to minimise health and safety risks. This includes both employees and non-employees who are visiting a site.

Storage – health and safety

A variety of systems are used for storing goods, from pallets to static racking. The method of storage largely depends on the shape and fragility of the goods being stored and the location. Storage areas should be properly designated and clearly marked. The layout of storage and handling areas should avoid tight corners, awkwardly placed doors, pillars, uneven surfaces and changes in gradient.

Systematic risk assessments of haulage yard activities will identify the different methods of storage used by the organisation. This would also include the equipment used, such as containers, racking as well as stacking. Identifying the different types of goods that are stored may indicate that there are specific hazards associated with their storage. These will need to be considered when developing standards, for example, their ability to bear weight or the stability of the stack.

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If you have any questions about how to comply with the regulations affecting your logistics business, please call Jamie Hare.

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Chat to the Author, Jamie Hare

Associate, Dispute Resolution and Litigation, Chelmsford office

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