Every trade supplier recognises the risks of vehicle loading and unloading. It’s perilous work for even trained professionals, but how should you handle customers who try their hand?

 The results can be catastrophic – and costly. When a customer was crushed by a site vehicle at Travis Perkins’ Milton Keynes location, the company was fined £2million. The incident occurred when, while loading planks of wood, a 44-year-old man fell from the back of his vehicle into the path of an oncoming truck.

Customer loading is a common industry issue, so we’ve examined some key compliance questions to help you protect both the public and your own personnel. 

Are steps or gantries the answer?

Some suggest that providing steps or gantries to assist customer access to the back of their vehicles is a suitable solution.

From a legal perspective, however, the company would then be deemed as involved in the process. This means that if the step or gantry provided is damaged, and the damage is shown to be associated with a fall from height injury, this could lead to a health and safety breach under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

Added complications regarding steps or gantries include storage, equipment checks, height issues and manual handling, to name a few.

So what’s the solution?

There is a delicate line between safety improvements and business practicalities. To avoid accidents and fines, companies must do all they can to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. On the other hand, if a business no longer allows customers on the back of vehicles, or does not assist them in loading, they may sacrifice sales to less stringent competitors.  

Here’s our recommended plan to help meet the needs of both customers and suppliers:

  • Don’t provide steps or gantries unless they are regularly maintained, the correct height for all vehicles and you have enough for all customers to use.
  • Display signage outlining the risks of climbing on the back of vehicles.
  • Designate a parking bay or dedicated loading area away from general traffic movement. Loading procedures should not be conducted on a roadway or traffic route.
  • Ensure loading areas are level and clear of obstacles.
  • Prohibit employees from climbing on customer vehicles.
  • Take extra care in adverse weather conditions.
  • Only allow employees to offer up materials with a lift truck once the customer has given permission and is completely clear of the vehicle. Employees should ensure the customer has good footing and can pull the load from the lift truck at their own pace.
  • Empower your team to stop the loading process immediately if they feel it has become dangerous.
  • Make sure staff know they have management back up if they need to inform customers of a ‘no loading’ policy.

We help more than 500 merchant sites balance compliance duties and commercial demands. Speak to us to learn how we can do the same for you.