A Guide To Workplace Transport Safety

Employers have a legal duty to understand and execute their responsibilities in relation to workplace transport safety. In Great Britain alone, there are more than 5,000 workplace accidents involving transport every year and around 50 of those involved fatalities, according to official health and safety statistics[1].

Even for businesses that do not involve fleets, plant/machinery or other transport within the primary function, workplace transport safety remains relevant. It covers a wide variety of vehicles including cars, vans, large vehicles, forklift trucks and tractors.

With the distinct risk of serious injury and death when workplace transport safety is not properly executed, the stakes of getting it right are high. Aside from the human cost of errors, employers could also face corporate manslaughter charges for failures.

What is workplace transport?

Workplace transport is generally defined as any activity involving vehicles used in a workplace, according to the Health and Safety Executive.[2] It only relates to vehicles driven on public roads when they are being loaded or unloaded adjacent to a workplace.

Managing workplace transport safety

Risk assessments relating to workplace transport safety need to take account of three areas:

  • the vehicle
  • driver, and
  • working environment.

Workplace vehicle safety

Vehicles used in workplaces should be:

  • suitable for the purpose they are used for and the environment they are being used in
  • up to required standards
  • designed so that, where possible, those who use them can do their work from the ground
  • fitted with devices and mirrors that allow drivers to see all around them
  • maintained in good working order with regular planned inspections
  • considered for warning devices, such as reversing alarms and bright paintwork, where appropriate to make pedestrians aware of them.

Workplace driver safety

Workplace vehicles should only be operated by trained and qualified drivers or under appropriate instruction and monitoring during training.

For new recruits, it is wise for employers to carry out checks to ensure their skills are up to the standard they have claimed. Implementation of additional training as necessary is vital.

Additional training and monitoring of skills may also be necessary for existing staff, those who take on new responsibilities or when vehicles change. A programme of reassessment for experienced drivers can help to inform any members of staff that may need more training. Keeping a training record for each driver will ensure tasks are allocated to the most appropriate people.

Changes in health may also impact a person’s ability to safely operate workplace transport. Guidance on ‘fitness to drive’ is given by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).[3]

Transport safety and the working environment

The physical environment of a workplace is the third major factor that influences workplace transport safety. Both site design and the activities that take place need to be considered.

Site design

Every workplace area where vehicles are used will have specific hazards and characteristics to consider, but there are many rules to aid safety. These relate to:

  • Segregation – keeping vehicles and pedestrians separate
  • Safe traffic routes – ensuring they are kept clear, signposted, suitable (in terms of width, surfacing, etc) and as free of hazards like blind bends as possible
  • Speed – keeping speeds low with signage and appropriate control measures such as speed humps, chicanes and speed limits
  • Signage – for pedestrians and vehicle operators
  • Sight – drivers and pedestrians need to be able to see hazards and vehicles respectively. Lighting should be suitable and sufficient.
speed limit signs behind forklift in warehouse

Site activities

Some specific transport related activities bring elevated risk of incidents. It helps if everyone on site and, particularly those involved in operating or directing transport, has an awareness of these. Specific high-risk activities include:

  • reversing – efforts should be made to reduce the need or eliminate the need for reversing on site (with one way systems, for example) 
  • loading and unloading – information should be provided and accompany the load on the nature of the load and how it should be loaded, unloaded and secured

Specific training is needed for some activities, including:

  • coupling and uncoupling
  • operating certain machinery, including tractors and forklifts
  • tipping
  • carrying out the role of banksman/signaller
Tractor ploughing a field

Ten Workplace Transport Safety tips

Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority (HSA) provides a free printable poster including ten workplace transport safety tips, providing an excellent visual crib sheet. The tips are:

  1. Control entry to your workplace
  2. Keep pedestrians and vehicles apart
  3. Eliminate vehicle reversing, where possible
  4. Provide clearly marked pedestrian walkways
  5. Mark and signpost ‘vehicle only’ areas
  6. Ensure all work areas are well lit
  7. Keep traffic routes free of obstructions, where possible and ensure permanent obstructions are marked
  8. Provide impact protection for vulnerable parts of the workplace such as lamp posts and columns
  9. Provide high visibility personal protective equipment and ensure it is used
  10. Accompany visitors.

Workplace transport safety for lone workers

Workplace transport safety is an issue that affects many lone workers as a driver and pedestrian. It is something that can be particularly prevalent in some of the roles where lone workers are most at risk, such as in agriculture and delivery drivers.

Similarly, in construction where you or your employees may be going onto sites that are manned and run by other people, but where they are operating as individuals, workplace transport safety can be a big consideration. This can be the case when you or your workers are making deliveries, concrete pouring or operating specialist machinery such as cranes, for example. They face increased risks entering workplaces they are not familiar with and where they may not know the localised safety procedures.

Portable radios and communications systems improve the safety of lone workers in these situations. They can reduce the dangers where reversing is required by creating better communications with banksmen and signallers.

Especially at risk are lone workers going on to sites that are otherwise unmanned, where people are spread thinly or that are remote. They can use quality communications devices to raise the alarm for help if they fall or are hurt out of earshot of anyone.

Systems that work even when there is no mobile phone signal and offer GPS tracking create additional vital lines of defence for lone workers and those that include fall detection will raise the alarm even if someone is knocked unconscious, trapped by a vehicle or severely injured and unable to call for help.

Training is a key route to keeping lone workers safe. They need to be equipped to assess and manage risk in the workplaces and sites they are entering and the operation of their vehicles.

Employees and lone workers who are empowered with knowledge regarding the risks and the vehicles they operate are more likely to stay safe and keep those around them safe.

Follow the link for further advice on the importance of training lone workers.


[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/

[2] https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg199.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assessing-fitness-to-drive-a-guide-for-medical-professionals