Deliveries, loading and unloading, presents one of the most dangerous activities within garden centres. Many accidents involve customers or staff being struck by a vehicle or being struck by stock falling from a vehicle. Many staff injuries also result from falling from vehicles during stock access for checking, securing or sheeting. With frequent deliveries of slabs, fencing, aggregates and shrubs, to name a few, there is no escaping the need for better awareness of safe loading and unloading practices.

In this article, we share our top tips for practical improvements to loading and unloading safely in your garden centre:

Segregation and Location

  • Loading and unloading should be carried out away from pedestrians (customers or staff) in a designated area.
  • If possible, ensure that deliveries are book in and allocated a time slot so you can be sure that staff are available – try to take deliveries outside of busy periods. 
  • The driver should wait in a safe area whilst forklift truck loading and unloading takes place.
  • Loading and unloading should only be conducted on firm, level ground and should be clear of overhead cables, pipes, or other dangerous obstructions. Be sure that the working area is protected against bad weather as far as possible as strong winds can be particularly dangerous. If this is not possible, loading/ unloading should be postponed if conditions are dangerous. 

The vehicle

  • Before loading and unloading, ensure vehicles have their brakes applied and any stabilisers or outriggers properly positioned – The vehicle needs to be as stable as possible.
  • Always check the floor of the vehicle before loading to ensure it is safe to load. Look out for debris or broken boarding.
  • If you are loading onto a tail lift, make sure that load is secure on the lift before raising up and that the lift has been subject to a six-monthly thorough inspection. 
  • Vehicles should never be loaded beyond their maximum gross weight and must be properly maintained. 

Shifted loads

  • Loads can shift in transit, so assess stability of the load before removing any restraints.
  • Determine a safe system of work for unloading, ensuring that any persons not involved in the loading / unloading activity keep away from the area

Avoiding falls

Falls from vehicles is very common, often caused by slipping while walking on loads, tripping on ropes or torn sheets or falling when climbing onto or off the vehicle.

You should always avoid the need to access the bed of a lorry but where this is  is unavoidable:

  • Always use the steps and handholds provided on the vehicle. Where these aren’t available or accessible, a footed single section ladder should be used with a minimum of 3 points of contact. Mudguards and wheels should never be used. This also applies when getting down from the vehicle – never jump.
  • Ensure  trip hazards such as, straps,  banding, and packing materials should  are cleared away. 
  • Always face the direction you are walking and pay attention to the stability and grip of the surface you are walking on. Standing on the product should be avoided as far as possible. Be sure to take  wet or icy conditions into account and adjust your work rate approprietly.
  • Always wear a hard hat with restraining device when working on the  vehicle bed and keep a safe distance away from the edge.
  • Check you are not stepping into the path of a moving vehicle before climbing down from the vehicle.

Securing Loads

  • Loads can be secured using load straps attached to anchor points.  
  • Spread loads evenly and place as close as possible to the bulkhead or headboard. Load to enable efficient unloading.

Planning and communication

Consider the best time to schedule deliveries and collections to avoid busy times of customer or vehicle movements. Visiting drivers should be given relevant site-specific instructions, e.g. where to park, load, and unload and where to wait safely. Customer parking and retail entrances should also be clearly signposted.

Ensure that any staff involved in marashelling delivery vehicles around the site or are involved in the loading and unloading task have received banksman and workplace transport training and are wearing hi-vis clothing and safety footwear.  

Deliveries and collections should be well planned, ideally agreeing safety arrangements when the order is placed. Drivers could be provided with simple delivery safety checklists to ensure it is safe to continue with their delivery or collection. Sufficient time should be provided for drivers to check loads are secure and suitable equipment available for loading and unloading. Delivery drivers should be made aware that they can refuse to load or unload if necessary for safety reasons.