WHSQ warns on falling load crush incidents

Safety authority urges operators to properly manage risks

WHSQ warns on falling load crush incidents
One of the incidents involved timber transport


Two separate incidents involving falling loads injuring truck drivers have prompted a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) safety alert.

In the first event, in January, an interstate truck driver suffered multiple leg fractures when a stone slab fell off the back of a truck.

"It appears the stone was secured to an ‘A’ frame with straps," WHSQ notes.

"Early investigations indicate that when the driver removed the straps, the stone slabs toppled and struck him."

A February incident saw a truck driver suffer severe crush injuries when a pack of timber boards being delivered to a timber yard fell onto him.

"Early investigations indicate the pack of timber caught onto an adjacent one when being unloaded. It caused the strapping to snap and the timber fell onto the driver," WHSQ writes.

The safety authority notes investigations are continuing into the exact cause and the findings are not yet confirmed.

"Loading and unloading trucks at workplaces can be hazardous, depending on the type of material being handled, nature of the task, and the weather conditions," it warns.

"The site location may also present other unique risks, including varying terrain and people near of the load/unload area.

"While there is considerable guidance for securing loads to prevent them from moving while a truck is driving on a road, there is less guidance on controlling the risk of preventing loads moving while loading or unloading.

"In situations where materials (such as stone slabs and packs of timber) are delivered, a safe system of work for loading and unloading trucks should be implemented and maintained."

WHSQ reports it has probed 63 incidents involving a crush injury or near-miss from objects falling off trucks between July 1, 2014 and February 14, 2020.

Of those, 38 events (60%) required a person to have in-hospital treatment.

In the same period it has issued 275 improvement notices and 83 prohibition notices for offences involving injuries sustained by, or managing the risk of, a crush incident due to loads falling from trucks.

Falling pallets led to a similar WHSQ alert earlier in the year

In its incident alert, WHSQ point to four safety steps:

  • Identify hazards: find out what could cause harm
  • Assess risks: understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
  • Control risks: implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • Review: assess control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

If these controls are not reasonably practicable, operators must minimise the risk by one or more of the following:

  • Elimination: the most effective control measure is to remove the hazard or hazardous work practice associated with loading/unloading
  • Isolation: separate people from mobile plant using barriers, fences or other similar options. Where possible, workers should not access the loading/receiving area when forklifts or other mobile plant are operating during the load/unload process. Create a dedicated waiting areas for truck drivers
  • Engineering controls: for example, using mobile plant designed for the task. Ensure the mobile plant and any attachments are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and suitable for the load being lifted. Where possible, use level ground to minimise the risk of the cargo becoming unstable
  • Administrative controls: these include relevant traffic management plan, exclusion zones, safe work procedures, worker training, correct supervision, load inspections prior to unloading
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): consider using high-visibility or reflective clothing, hard hats and steel cap boots.

"Adopting and implementing higher order controls such as elimination, substitution and isolation through engineering, before considering administrative or PPE controls, will significantly reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring," WHSQ says.

"The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned."


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