Recent prosecutions – transport company fined £400,000 after fatal vehicle crane accident

A transport company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £19,000 following an accident involving a driver and a vehicle-mounted crane.  

The employee died of his injuries in hospital a month after the 2020 incident, which happened when he climbed onto the bed of his trailer to sling the load and attach it to the crane. He was struck by the crane and fell to the ground while moving the load with the machine’s remote control.  

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that the incident had been caused by the company’s health and safety failings – and that simple control measures could have prevented it. Work at height risks had not been suitably assessed and fall risks had been inadequately prevented and controlled. In addition, the driver had not received adequate training and instruction on the safe operation of the vehicle’s remote crane controls.  

Specialist guidance from the Opus experts   

The use of remote crane controls is common across the industry. During deliveries, vehicle-mounted cranes have the advantage over fixed crane controls because they provide greater flexibility in terms of where the driver can stand when offloading.

Using a remote can give the operator a better vantage point to spot pedestrians and passers-by and allows them to pause the offload in the interests of safety. Drivers can also ‘move with their delivery’. 

However, as evidenced in the case above, remote crane controls can present serious safety concerns if misused. Falls from height are the leading cause of death in the workplace, so it’s essential to follow best practice when using this type of machinery.

  • Ensure you only access the vehicle bed when absolutely necessary. Investigate pre-slinging loads if you don’t already do this.
  • Sweep your vehicle from ground level where possible.
  • Only use proper access and egress methods - i.e. don’t use bumpers to access the lorry and don’t jump down.
  • Keep your vehicle sides up whenever possible.
  • Ensure your safety boots are clean (free from mud/oil).
  • Always face in the direction you are going.
  • Check for trip hazards. Stay clear from the edge.
  • Avoid standing on stock, e.g. unstable or slippery items.
  • Ensure you understand your crane remote controls. Isolate the controls when not in use so they cannot be mistakenly knocked, activating the crane.
  • DO NOT use your crane when on the back of the vehicle bed. Position yourself in a safe position where you can observe the load.
  • Always wear a hard hat with a restraining device when using the crane or standing on the back of the vehicle.

Talk to an Opus consultant for more information  

For expert support to prevent machinery and fall-from-height hazards at your builders merchant, get in touch with an Opus safety specialist. We’ll guide you through simple compliance measures that reduce risk, boost performance and protect your people.

We’re available on or 0330 043 4015.