Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness aligned to the Department for Work and Pensions. 

The HSE is an independent regulator and acts in the public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury in Great Britain's workplaces. The HSE takes serious action on serious issues; it uses a range of methods including prosecution to ensure employers safeguard their staff. They also provide specialist advice and work with businesses to improve health and safety in a common-sense way. Local authorities are responsible for enforcement in offices, shops and other lower-risk work environments. 

Health and Safety in Road Haulage 

General Haulage and warehousing, wholesale and retail distribution, or specialised haulages such as car transport, bulk materials and bulk liquids may have particular hazards but in every industry where deliveries are made drivers are exposed to significant hazards arising simply from the day-to-day activities of the job they do and the work environment around them. 

Is there a problem? 

Over the last five years, accident reports sent to HSE and local authorities show that nearly 60 employees were killed and 5000 seriously injured in haulage and distribution whilst carrying out their work. Another 23,000 suffered injuries severe enough to keep them off work for more than three days. These figures take no account of work-related ill health such as back pain or stress. 

This represents a higher rate of accidents to employees than either construction or agriculture, both widely regarded as hazardous industries. 

Managing health and safety in the workplace 

Health and safety is seen by many people as too much paperwork, red tape, expense and rules and regulations that are difficult to understand and inhibit the running of a business. Many people in business believe that because they have had few or no accidents all that is needed is basic common sense and that, in any case, most common accidents these days are unavoidable. 

Relying on people to use their common sense may work until something does go wrong and when someone is killed or seriously injured, it proves an inadequate approach. Too many employers live to regret not taking health and safety more seriously before an accident, occurs rather than after one of their employees has been badly injured at work. 

Controlling health and safety risks is not difficult. It can be achieved with a little effort, need not be too costly and complying makes business sense with the benefits of reduced claims for compensation and lower insurance premiums. 

Where to start 

Understanding the risks that result in injury and ill health help organisations to recognise the activities most likely to lead to harm. By concentrating on these initially, practical steps can be taken to put controls in place which if followed will start the process of compliance.

Deaths at Work 

Almost all deaths at work arise from just four types of accident, most often during loading, unloading or maintenance of vehicles: 

  1. Being struck by a moving vehicle 
  2. Falling loads 
  3. Falls from vehicles 
  4. Collapsing or overturning vehicles 

Issues such as the use of handbrakes, safe positioning of drivers during loading and unloading with fork-lift trucks, propping of vehicles during repair work and climbing up on vehicles have to be tackled. 

Major Injuries 

More than seven out of ten injuries at work are due to just four causes: 

  1. Slips and trips 
  2. Being struck by moving or falling objects 
  3. Falls from less than 2 metres 
  4. Manual handling 

Most of these happen to drivers during loading and unloading, though many slips occur during other work. 

Other Reportable Injuries 

Manual handling and slips and trips account for two-thirds of other reportable injuries. Addressing these two areas clearly has the greatest potential for reducing the number of such injuries each year. 

Other Issues 

There are other subjects to consider apart from those causing most of the accidents, such as workshop safety, display screen equipment and maintenance of plant and machinery. While these cannot be ignored, they do not contribute to the bulk of accidents and attention should initially be focused on the areas actually causing most harm if the overall picture is to be improved. 

What you need to do 

Many of these accidents could be prevented by employers simply examining what actually goes on in their business, removing and controlling hazards as far as possible and taking the necessary managerial and supervisory steps to make sure what is supposed to happen does happen. This means looking at what people do at work as well as finding out what controls are needed. The process can be broken down into a number of steps to help translate theory into practice. This is basically what 'risk assessment and managing safety' is all about; a structured approach to solving a problem and controlling risk. 

The terms used can be off-putting, but a 'hazard' is simply something that can cause harm and 'risk' is the chance of anyone suffering harm from a hazard.

For example, a slippery path is a hazard. The more slippery it is and the more people who walk along with it, the increase the risk of someone falling and being injured.  

Management should focus their efforts on practical control and improvements where needed and not on creating mountains of paperwork or forms for their own sake. Simple records of what has been done may be adequate but if risks are not controlled and accidents or injuries occur, those records alone will not be of any value. 


Businesses need to appoint someone to carry out Health & Safety Management duties. It need not be a legal or health and safety specialist. An appreciation of what happens in the workplace and what hazards and risks there are in the business is essential. Information and experience on the level of practical control that is required is also important. 

Once the nominated person has an understanding of what is involved, it helps to rank any problems in priority order for action, depending on the likely chance of something going wrong and how serious the consequences if it does. 

A plan setting out what needs to be done provides a starting point for action. Someone in the business with enough authority should be responsible for the plan and checking that it is taken forward. Checks are also needed to ensure that any precautions or procedures actually work and are used. 

Where to get information on risks and controls 

A great deal of written guidance is available from HSE. This has been produced to help employers and employees reduce accidents and ill health at work. The 'Further reading' section contains details of some titles that may be useful. The HSE Infoline also provides a wealth of useful information. It is run by independent contractors on behalf of HSE, which reassures many people who are hesitant about approaching HSE for advice directly. There is also the HSE website (please see 'Further information' for details), which has a haulage-specific portal that continues to be developed and updated. 

Members will find that the Freight Transport Association Yearbook and the Road Haulage Association Handbook contain useful summaries of legal requirements and practical advice. Trade unions produce drivers’ handbooks that are also helpful. 

Viewing company accident records and near-miss reports (if recorded) can be valuable, while also speaking to employees and observing the work that goes on in the workplace can often be the best source of information. 

It is important to remember that there are legal duties to consult employees or their representatives. Many employers have found that involving employees in this way, to eliminate or control risks, has been invaluable. Every company will be different but the following checklist of general topics indicates the sorts of things that should be considered. It also provides an idea of what is needed to minimise risks and comply with the law. 

Health & Safety Checklist 

Many of the following questions apply to both drivers themselves and others who work at depots and delivery sites. Businesses should make sure that risks are properly controlled on their own sites and those that their drivers visit.

Workplace Transport Risks 

  • Do drivers have a safe place to wait during loading and unloading and can they get there without passing through areas of vehicle movement? 
  • Are security and loading staff made aware of the dangers of moving vehicles? 
  • Is reversing minimised? If it is unavoidable, are alternative measures taken, such as the use of additional mirrors on vehicles, CCTV or a suitably trained guide? 
  • Is there a clear one-way system and are there pedestrian/vehicle routes i.e. not a big area of tarmac with people and vehicles everywhere? 
  • Would a driver arriving at a site know where to go, where to park safely and how to make contact with someone at the premises? 
  • Do vehicle routes have sharp or blind bends/corners? Are they wide enough and properly maintained? Who plans all this? Who checks all this? 
  • Are all Fork Lift Truck drivers trained, certified and regularly monitored? 
  • Are all Fork Lift Trucks in good condition? 
  • Do all vehicles and trailers have effective service and parking brakes and are there clear instructions on how and when to apply them? 
  • Could alarms be considered that sound if the handbrake is left off? Several drivers are killed each year because their vehicles move off when the handbrake is not engaged when parked. 
  • Are all drivers experienced and tested to check their competence? 
  • Are stabilisers always used when operating lorry-mounted cranes? 
  • Do drivers always use trailer parking brakes and not rely on disconnecting the red line? 
  • Are tipping vehicle bodies always propped when people work under them or under tilting cabs? 

Falls Risks 

  • Is it known what work at height goes on e.g. roof work, painting, high-level storage, work in warehouse racking? 
  • Is safe access provided? 
  • Are sheeting operations carried out with as little climbing on lorries as possible? 
  • Vehicles transporters fitted with guardrails on the upper deck? 
  • Is there an inspection, maintenance and report procedure for all equipment such as ropes, straps, curtains, sheets, nets etc. to ensure they are safe to use? 
  • Is there safe access to bulk-storage diesel tanks? 
  • Are steps fitted for access to the bed of all vehicles and are they used rather than drivers jumping down or climbing up? 
  • Are yards well lit, well maintained with an even surface and free of slipping and tripping hazards? 
  • Are vehicle, trailer and cab access steps all kept in good condition? 

Manual Handling Risks 

  • Have all manual handling tasks been identified and eliminated where possible? 
  • For those tasks remaining, have mechanical aids been provided and training carried out? 
  • Are there safe means of opening and closing trailer curtains? 
  • Are there systems for checking whether a load has shifted in transit and for dealing with bulging loads on curtain-sided vehicles? 
  • Are all drivers familiar with safe loading and unloading procedures? 
  • Do businesses and their drivers know what hazards they may be exposed to and what rules they should follow at customer sites? 

Legal Consequences 

Poor control may result in action from HSE or local authorities. Transport risks, falls from height and manual handling are all priority areas for enforcing authorities, and all are common causes of accidents in road haulage. Fines of up to £20,000 can be imposed for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, with unlimited fines and imprisonment possible if cases are heard in higher courts. Directors and managers can face prosecution as individuals if their acts or omissions led to the offence. 

If a director or manager fails their staff and someone is killed, they can face the full force of the law under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. 

HSE and local authority inspectors will be looking closely at all work activities that cause the most harm, including transport, work at height and simple slips and trips. Acting to control such risks will help businesses to not fall foul of the law. 

Remember, revocation of an operating licence is a possibility when offences come to the attention of the Traffic Commissioners. 

There are several links below which are useful. Alternatively, there are other specific pages within this section covering other aspects of Health & Safety in the transport workplace. 

HSE Website -  

HSE Website - 

PUWER Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 

LOLER - Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998