Reducing health and safety risks when working with HGVs

Diversifying into haulage for those in the agricultural industry can offer a number of business opportunities, but it also introduces additional risks and legal obligations.

A farmer, for example, might decide to use agricultural tractors and trailers for contract work for other local farmers or other clients. It can also involve purchasing Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) for transporting animals, farm produce or other goods.

However, hauliers should understand that as well as the statutory requirements for the operation of the vehicles there is also a legal requirement to ensure risk assessments are carried out and controls are put in place to protect workers and others.

How accidents happen

The haulage sector has a high accident rate, with many accidents occurring during vehicle and trailer maintenance (e.g. due to raised vehicle and trailer bodies collapsing) and during loading and unloading (eg. through falling loads, falls from vehicles, slips and trips, manual handling and being struck by moving vehicles).

During maintenance and loading/unloading, safe stop procedures should be used – apply parking brakes, remove keys and isolate all power. Drivers should also stand in a safe place or remain in their cab, vehicle and trailer bodies must be propped during maintenance and drivers must not climb onto vehicle beds or loads.

What the law says

  • Ensure all drivers have the correct class of license for the vehicle as well as any additional training required (e.g. Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) training for HGV drivers, Certificate of competence for handling and transporting livestock etc.)
  • The weight limits for vehicles and trailers must not be exceeded
  • Speed limits must be obeyed by all drivers and HGV drivers must comply with the driving time restrictions
  • Digital tachographs must be processed, the data uploaded and analogue tachographs must be filed safely for inspection
  • All vehicles must be serviced and maintained with records kept
  • Wheel torque setting must be checked regularly with records kept
  • HGV tractors must have regular formal inspections (the frequency will depend on the vehicle’s condition and usage) and an annual MOT
  • Agricultural trailers should have their brakes serviced and inspected at least once a year
  • HGV drivers must have an annual medical examination
  • Employers must confirm the policies for alcohol and drug misuse including use of prescribed medication. Arrangements must be put in place for lone workers to include mobile phones, route planning, drivers ‘phoning in’ on arrival at client’s sites, regular contact throughout the day etc.
  • Drivers must be given rules for the use of mobile phones whilst driving and hands free kits should be provided.

Two key areas to be aware of…

1. Loading and unloading

  • Training drivers in the need to wait in a safe place (i.e. not near a working lift truck) or remain in the cab while their vehicle is being loaded
  • Wearing high visibility clothing
  • Keeping clear of overhead power lines so there is no chance touching them, or of electricity jumping to 'earth' through machinery, loads or people
  • Instructing drivers not to load or unload livestock alone
  • Avoiding reversing. If it cannot be avoided then the area should be checked and assistance requested. Great care should be taken as ‘banksmen’ are regularly hit by reversing vehicles that they are directing. Agree hand signals in advance and don’t move the vehicle unless the banksman can be seen in the mirrors. Ideally, all vehicles should have reversing cameras fitted
  • Instructing drivers to use ‘Safe Stop’ and to ensure that parking brakes are applied on the tractor and trailer
  • Training drivers in a safe system for checking loads before unloading and in a safe system for opening curtain sides
  • Training drivers in a safe system for sheeting and un-sheeting non-tipping trailers
  • Propping vehicle and trailer bodies correctly during any maintenance work
  • Providing a system of preventing falls (e.g. harnesses and lanyards, guard rails etc.) if work on trailers or loads cannot be avoided.

2. Potential for injury from falls and manual handling

  • Don’t jump from the cab – use steps and handholds facing the vehicle as you climb down
  • Check for uneven surfaces, such as potholes or kerbs, before stepping off the vehicle
  • Wear safety footwear which support the ankles and which are slip resistant
  • Wear high visibility clothing and head protection where required
  • Store heavy, raw materials at a low level
  • Move items with mechanical handling equipment where possible (lift trucks, sack trucks, pallet trucks etc.)
  • Train staff in good lifting technique.

Learn more

The information provided in this guidance is a brief overview of a diverse work activity. This activity may require further assessment and consultancy work completing to ensure statutory compliance. NFU Mutual Risk Management Services can provide additional support in this area using one of its specialist in-house consultants who are based around the UK.