Worker injured from trailer fall triggers heightened safety response

A truck driver who fell from his trailer in August 2020 and sustained serious injuries has prompted the Queensland Government to share incident prevention advice amid investigations.

The transport industry – according to insurance company, WorkCover Queensland, and the Workplace Health and Safety Electrical Safety Office Worker’s Compensation Regulator – has a high rate of injuries and fatalities as a result of workers falling from trucks and trailers.

Vehicle design, equipment used and work practices are commonly associated with these fall risks. Specific factors include: poor ladder/step design, climbing at height to secure a load, climbing over or around oversize loads, jumping down from a trailer, using tyres as steps to climb onto a trailer and climbing on the trailer top where there are unprotected openings.

A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), according to the Queensland Government, 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.

To manage work health and safety risks, there are four steps to follow:

  1. Identify hazards – i.e. what could cause harm?
  2. Assess risks – Understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard.
  3. Control risks – Implement the most effective control measure reasonably practicable.
  4. Review – Assess control measures to ensure they work as intended.

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

PCBUs are expected to work through the hierarchy of control to minimise risk.

Risk control measures can include: elimination, or remove the hazard/hazardous work practice associated with workers accessing a truck or trailer when loading/unloading; isolation, separating people from vehicles and mobile plants using barriers; engineering, changing the physical characteristics of the plan or work area to remove/reduce the risk; administrative controls, developing a safe system of work if the risk remains; and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the use of high-visibility or reflective apparel along with suitable footwear with adequate slip resistance.