Safe load restraint is something which many people do not consider when using a van for their business, but it really can be a matter of life and death. A little dramatic?… Well consider the following and judge for yourself..
Health and Safety at work regulations place a ‘duty-of-care’ upon employers to take reasonable and practical steps to assess and manage the risks to their employees whilst at work along with any others who may be affected by their work activities.
Many employers are extremely aware of their duty-of-care in the workplace, but often vehicles are being overlooked as part of the risk. However, vehicles used for business purposes are considered to form part of the workplace. It is therefore necessary for employers to assess and manage the risks associated with the commercial use of their vehicles, and any such assessment should consider the method of restraint of loads being carried.
Many of us are old enough to remember a time when the wearing of seat belts was not compulsory, and the subsequent campaign of graphic TV advertising showing the consequences of not wearing one in an accident. After the law on front seat belts was changed there was a further campaign surrounding rear seat belts, which showed the rear passenger impacting the driver.
Both of these campaigns were designed to show the effects, injury and forces acting on us when unrestrained in an accident. Exactly the same forces act upon every single item in the load area of a van, effectively turning anything which isn’t suitably restrained into a deadly missile.
Clearly, vehicle manufacturers have in recent years carried out extensive crash testing, with the majority now supplying a bulkhead between the cab and load area to provide some protection for the occupants. However, this should not give rise to complacency and thinking that this steel wall will negate the need to secure the load in the rear.
Consider the many different shapes, sizes and weights of tools, products, stock etc., which can be carried and the associated risks they present. Often it isn’t the heaviest or largest item which can be lethal, in fact quite the opposite sometimes. For example, a large heavy item in a box which is unsecured in the rear would generate a very large impact force, but spread over a large surface area would most likely cause a steel bulkhead to dent and deform. Yet the velocity of an unsecured screwdriver or garden fork would most likely puncture through the bulkhead. Now multiply that by the quantity of such items you carry and you suddenly have a much greater risk of serious injury through flying projectiles.
Not all vans have a steel bulkhead, some are supplied with open ‘ladder’ style frames to protect the driver, some have mesh top halves and some used vans have had them removed. Consequently the risk is greater with these, as there then becomes an unobstructed route for smaller items to enter the cab area. For example, a box of screws or bolts flying through the cab could easily cause injury to the occupants or even penetrate the windscreen and cause injury to other outside the vehicle, as has been demonstrated in various crash testing.
Internal racking manufacturers have also extensively crash tested their products, to ensure they do not present a greater risk of injury, but this of course has to extend to the installation of the units themselves.
Properly securing cargo of all sizes not only provides an organised workspace, it also provides a safer one. Tools stored within robust and securely fitted racking units are less likely to be able to cause injury in the event of an accident, than those which are not.
It is estimated that work-related road traffic accidents account for 200 road deaths and serious injuries each week, so when considering using a vehicle for work, make sure you properly secure everything and reduce the risks to you and your staff from unsecured loads.