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Falls from height second most common cause of injury, death in transport industry

March 9, 2017

While driving accidents remain the main cause of injuries and deaths in the transport industry, falls from height are the second most common, says the head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Dr Simon Blackwood.

In roughly two-thirds of workplace incidents, the worker was loading or unloading items from the vehicle, said Dr Blackwood.

The announcement was prompted after a steel company recently was fined $40,000 for failing to ensure the safety of a truck driver who fell from his trailer while unloading steel at Pinkenba in 2014.

Dr Blackwood said the business did not have adequate work procedures in place for falls from heights, nor the correct work procedures for unloading the steel on site.

“The driver was using a pry bar to separate lengths of steel to be slung for hoisting when the bar slipped, he overbalanced and fell onto the concrete floor, sustaining a fractured coccyx and bruising,” Dr Blackwood said.

“Business operators have a duty of care to everyone at the workplace – not just their own workers. In this case the company’s workers were assisting the driver to unload the steel, and some loading and unloading safety procedures were in place, but the risk of falls from height by delivery drivers was not addressed.”

The magistrate noted that the company took action immediately to rectify the safety shortcomings and had engaged a safety contractor to oversee process and procedures. It had also entered an early guilty plea and co-operated with the investigation.

The $40,000 penalty could have been heftier but the magistrate observed the company was coming out of voluntary administration and would effectively be starting business from scratch.

Even though Dr Blackwood acknowledged that the risks of falls are usually increased by the design of a vehicle, the equipment used, as well as work practices and behaviour, he said businesses operating in the road transport industry and their supply chains have a duty to identify and control these risk.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has produced a report – Preventing workers falling from trucks – which can be found at

How CoR laws affect you

If your company is involved in loading and unloading heavy vehicles, do you fully understand the scope of your legal obligations under chain of responsibility (CoR) laws?

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CoR laws affect many more businesses and business-owners than simply trucking companies and drivers. The laws affect everyone along the supply chain.

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