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HSE research carried out in 2004/05 estimate the human and economic cost of ‘falls from vehicle’ incidents that we know about was over £36.5 million. A sizeable proportion of these are falls from tail-lifts.
Reducing the risk of falls from tail-lifts
Health and Safety Executive/Local Authorities
Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA)
Local Authority Circular
• Subject: Lifts
• Open Government Status: Fully Open
• LAC Number: 50/19
• Keywords: guardrails, tail lifts
• Revised: July 2009
• Review Date: July 2014
Author unit / section: STSU
Target audience: All FOD Inspectors and LA Inspectors
HSE research carried out in 2004/05 estimate the human and economic cost of ‘falls
from vehicle’ incidents that we know about was over £36.5 million. A sizeable
proportion of these are falls from tail-lifts.
Tail-lift manufacturers have developed guard-rail solutions and increased slip
resistance of surfaces. It is not a legal requirement that tail-lifts are supplied with
these. The legal duty is on the user to decide, through risk assessment, whether these
safety measures should be provided. Inspectors can provide advice to help
dutyholders to decide what is most appropriate for their activities.
Examples of guardrails, and further information on preventing falls from tail lifts can
be found in the IRTE guide ‘Preventing falls and falling loads from tail lifts’.
Current design standards do not require manufacturers to provide handrails below two
metres. HSE is actively seeking to revise this standard.
The main duty is currently on the dutyholder to risk assess and ensure they have
provided adequate safety measures for their workers.
At present, the most practical solutions for tail-lifts that operate below two metre
height appears to be providing guard rails on both sides, but not on the rear end. This
should then be coupled with safe systems of work, such as positioning and unloading
loads in such a way that keeps the operator away from the edge of the tail-lift
Some industries, such as gas cylinder delivery, have been using guardrails on all three
sides for some time, and three-side solutions may be applicable to others where risk
assessment so determines.
There are also further economic advantages of using guard-rails, such as reducing
property damage from fallen loads.
The purpose of this LAC is to help inspectors raise awareness, with users and vehicle
bodybuilders, about fall protection systems, when selecting new equipment, or
retrospectively where residual risks are not well controlled through safe systems of
work or training.
Guardrails on tail lifts also give greater protection against the risk of objects,
including goods and roll cages, falling from the tail-lift during unloading. In
particular, side guard-rails can give greater protection against goods falling on
members of the public during kerb-side delivery. This can be a compelling argument
for providing guardrails for this type of task.
Surfaces should be slip resistant. Research has found that friction values of 0.36 or
above are recommended (assuming the tail-lift platform will be used on level
gradients). Otherwise, slips charts may be useful. More can be found under 'Role of
manufacturers and suppliers of flooring' , and the HSL Research report RR437 –
‘The underlying causes of falls from vehicles.’
A common contributing cause of slip accidents on tail-lifts is the failure to provide, or
wear, suitable slip resistant footwear. Research report RR437 – ‘The underlying
causes of falls from vehicles.’ gives useful information on this, in particular, the
importance of matching footwear to the environment, trialling footwear and
consulting with employees. The HSE slips website provides further advice.
Safe systems of work
Guard-rails and slip resistant surfaces will reduce the risk of accidents. Safe systems
of work will help reduce the risk further, and will be particularly necessary where it is
not reasonably practicable to fit guard-rails on all sides of the tail-lift, to ensure the
operators remains within the protection of the guard rail system.
Safe systems of work include providing a tail-lift that is suitable for the goods being
carried (for example, giving the operator plenty of space if they ride on the tail lift
with the load); planning loading to minimise the time spent on the tail-lift; designing a
loading and unloading pattern that allows operators to push goods from the vehicle,
rather than pulling them backwards onto the tail-lift; maintaining handling equipment
(such as roll cages); securing goods in the vehicle, so they don’t topple towards the
operator during unloading.
Design and operation of tail-lifts vary. Operators should be given proportional
training for each type of tail-lift they will use. Training should include how to operate
the equipment, and do’s and don’t for using the tail-lift, and any potential residual
hazards. More detail can be found in the SOE Tail Lift Specification guide for road
vehicle. This is in addition to the normal manual handling training associated with
Maintenance and Thorough Examination
LOLER applies to tail-lifts, so where people are lifted by the tail-lift (i.e. most
deliveries), the tail-lift must be thoroughly examined by a competent person every six
months, or to timing in accordance with an examination scheme, decided by a
competent person. Routine maintenance should be carried out as specified by the
manufacturer. More detail can be found in the SOE Simple Guide for Tail lift
operators and SOE Tail Lift Specification guide for road vehicle.
Many tail-lifts will suffer hard use between these examinations. A system should be in
place for routine checks on the tail-lift. Any safety defects noted should be rectified
Action by inspectors
Action by inspectors will normally involve only giving advice to dutyholders. It is
important to recognise that many tail-lifts in existing use do not have guard-rails in
Inspector action should include enquiring about policies for specifying new
equipment, and encouraging dutyholders to specify fall protection (principally
guardrails) and ask about options for slip-resistant flooring material on new
Where inspecting or investigating existing tail-lifts, inspectors should satisfy
themselves that dutyholders have adequately risk assessed the use of the tail-lift,
including whether provision of guardrails would be reasonably practicable, and
whether the slip-resistance of the tail-lift surface has been maintained. The examples
of guardrails solutions to prevent falls which are given in the IRTE guidance may be
useful to dutyholders. Regulation 7 of the Work at Height Regulations gives a list of
factors dutyholders must consider. Retrofitting may often not be reasonably
practicable, however it may be appropriate where residual risks are significant and are
not well controlled.
In certain cases, improvement notices (IN) requiring a dutyholder to carry out a risk
assessment may be appropriate. It will not normally be appropriate to serve INs to
retrofit guardrails. If inspectors feel there are aggravating factors that could justify an
IN requiring additional safety measures, they are advised to discuss with HSE
Transportation Section of STSU