Safety update: Preventing crushing risks from swing-up stabilisers

If your business uses lorry loaders with powered tilting stabilisers, you need to be aware of a potentially fatal crushing risk.

Since 2019, at least three people have died while a stabiliser was being retracted towards the vehicle. In each case, the stabiliser had not reached a fully upright position and pinned the operator against the lorry’s bodywork.

This blog outlines potential hazards posed by tilting stabilisers and offers approved guidance to reduce the risks to your workers. 

An overview of the risks 

Tilting stabilisers (also known as swing-up or rotating stabilisers) keep lorry loaders steady during operation. They sit on a retractable beam and are rotated and stored vertically against the vehicle when not in use. Depending on the spec, they’re operated by remote control or by levers at the base of the crane. 

However, this configuration can cause significant safety issues. If the stabiliser legs are retracted while in a horizontal position, anyone standing at the fixed controls can be crushed against the lorry. 

Get safety support from your manufacturer 

Lorry loader owners are advised to discuss potential safety improvements with their vehicle manufacturers. You should keep records of your conversations for future reference. 

Viable solutions may include: 

  • Updating software to ensure stabilisers can only be retracted when the leg is in the upright stowage position. 
  • Installing interlocks to prevent stabiliser legs from retracting unless they are vertical.
  • Removing crane base control levers and transferring to remote controls. 

Assess your risks and implement controls 

To protect your operators, it’s essential to upgrade risk assessments to cover crushing hazards from swing-up stabilisers. You should also highlight suitable control measures in lorry loader procedure documents like lift plans and emergency guidance.

Other important risk reduction steps include: 

  • Clearly displaying residual risk warning decals for operators in and near the crushing danger zone. Contact your manufacturer if you need replacement decals. 
  • Storing base control levers in case of emergency. If you’ve removed fixed controls in favour of remote ones, place a label on the disabled control panel indicating where the original levers are kept.
  • Updating documentation to spotlight safe positions and procedures when using remote controls. 

Train your team on safe stabiliser operation 

Comprehensive training ensures your operators are competent, qualified, and comfortable using rotating stabilisers. This means covering crushing risks during all lorry loader training, including new staff orientation or when operators move to a different vehicle. 

Using the following HSE Safety Notice guidance will help you cover the critical points:  

  • The risk of crushing is increased on the side where the tilting stabiliser rotates towards the operator or levers at the crane base.
  • Tilting stabiliser legs should be pinned or locked in the vertical position before the horizontal stabiliser beam is deployed or retracted.
  • It is essential that operators fully observe all movements of the stabilisers during deployment and stowage.
  • Operators must be made aware that operation of the tilt-up function must be separate from the retraction of the stabiliser beam (operators should not use both functions simultaneously).
  • Operators must be fully conversant with the manufacturer's instructions regarding the deployment and stowage of tilting stabilisers. There can be considerable variation between different systems. 
  • Operators, or others, must not be positioned in (or be required to lean or reach into) danger zones where there is a risk of crushing.
  • Where the stabiliser is only partially deployed, the risk is increased. In this case, consideration should be given to repositioning the vehicle to ensure further extension of the stabiliser beam is achievable prior to the tilt-up leg being deployed.
  • Where available, remote controls should be used for the operation of stabilisers and the operator should stand in a position suitable to observe the operation but outside of the danger zone.
  • All loader cranes with remote control of powered stabilisers have the option to use emergency fixed levers at the crane base. The emergency fixed levers are only required in the event of remote-control failure, following confirmation that a) the spare remote control battery does not resolve the issue and b) the remote control 'umbilical cord' is inoperable. Fleet owners are advised to ensure that the umbilical cord is always available in the cab and is fit for use. Should the emergency fixed levers need to be used, this guidance applies in the same way as it would to standard controls.

Questions about safe vehicle practices? Speak to Opus 

Implementing new safety standards and procedures is easier with expert support. If you need one-to-one feedback about crane and vehicle compliance in your business, talk to our team. 

Chat with an Opus consultant about risk assessments, vehicle safety, staff training, and more on 0330 043 4015 or email

Image source: Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI)