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Delivery Planning - Unloading At Site

Document Type: Alert
Keycode: web only
Division Author: Manufacturing, Logistics & Agriculture
Publication Date: 01 March 2007
Date First Published: 01 March 2007
Summary: This alert on delivery planning provides information to ensure the safe unloading of goods transported by road freight delivery drivers


To provide guidance on delivery planning to ensure the safe unloading of goods transported by road freight delivery drivers.


Many of the accidents that occur during delivery of materials at premises could be avoided if plans for the unloading operations were made at an early stage, ideally at the time an order is placed.

The warehouse arranging the load, the transport company, and the delivery receiver need to cooperate to ensure deliveries are planned appropriately.

There should be agreement on the vehicle, equipment and systems that will be used to ensure the load is delivered safely. This agreement needs to be documented as a written delivery plan, taking into account site-specific information, the types of loads being delivered and the facilities available for unloading.

Delivery plan information


When arranging a delivery, the warehouse employer should provide accurate information to the transport company to ensure they come to pick up goods with the correct vehicle and equipment and are able to plan a safe delivery.

Transport company:

When agreeing to deliver a load, the transport company should obtain the basic information needed to plan the delivery, such as:

  • What access restrictions apply (maximum size of vehicles etc)?
  • Where will unloading take place?
  • What lifting equipment is available onsite (overhead/mobile cranes, forklift trucks, dock levellers etc)?
  • What is the capacity of the lifting equipment onsite?
  • Are there any other special requirements? e.g. high visibility vests
  • Are there any site-specific issues? e.g. stairs.

Delivery receiver:

The customer receiving the goods should provide correct information on the conditions at the delivery site and any changes that may have occurred since the information was provided.

All parties should keep each other informed of any changes that may introduce new risks, and regularly review the delivery plan—the delivery driver should not arrive onsite without any knowledge of the conditions to be expected there.

Safe Unloading On Site

The delivery plan and any other paperwork sent with the load should be checked by the driver for special delivery instructions. The customer receiving the goods must also be familiar with the delivery plan and any special conditions that may apply.

The unloading operation should always be carried out under the supervision of a competent person who is aware of the hazards present and the necessary precautions, as described in the delivery plan. The delivery receiver should appoint this person to take responsibility for managing and supervising the unloading operation. This includes providing a site induction for the delivery driver and details of the site traffic management plan.

The delivery driver should not be left to make key decisions, for example where to leave the load. The driver should liaise with the delivery receiver to resolve any difficulties which are not anticipated in the delivery plan, and which may affect the safe delivery of the load. Where these cannot be resolved, it may be necessary to delay delivery until a safe means of unloading can be provided.

Site conditions

The area where material is to be unloaded must be suitable for unloading to be done safely. It should be checked by the appointed manager/supervisor before unloading begins to make sure it is safe to proceed. This check should identify hazards such as:

  • the suitability of the ground for the vehicle (for example whether it is flat and firm) and load stability. The vehicle itself should also be checked to make sure that it can access the unloading area safely.
  • any obstructions in the unloading area (including parked cars).
  • pedestrian exclusion zones—these must be maintained.
  • traffic—the traffic management plan must be fully implemented.

Access to the vehicle

Falls from vehicles can result in serious injuries and fatalities. Even falls of less than one metre can prove fatal. Only those people who need to access the vehicle for unloading should be allowed access. Where possible, vehicles should be unloaded without anybody getting on the tray. The delivery plan should minimise the amount of time spent by anyone on the tray of the vehicle.

The load should be inspected from the ground if possible before anyone gains access to the vehicle. Access should normally be via steps, a loading gantry, or a mobile platform. No-one should ever jump onto or off a vehicle. The tray of the vehicle should always be inspected to ensure that it is safe to walk on, and that there are no obstructions that may lead to tripping.

Inspecting the load prior to unloading

Inspect the load before unloading begins, to make sure it has not moved in transit. Similarly, check that any supporting timbers have not broken, as this may make the material unstable or likely to fall when the restraining straps are removed.

If the load has moved or become unstable in some way, consider how it can be removed safely. Access to the vehicle may be dangerous in these circumstances, as the load could move unexpectedly. It may be necessary to take the vehicle to another location or arrange alternative load shifting equipment. Do not allow unstable loads to 'tip' or fall onto the ground.

Means of unloading


  • ensure that the unloading operation has been properly planned in advance, taking full account of relevant load characteristics and site facilities.
  • keep the material under control at all times and do not allow it to roll off the vehicle.
  • ensure the vehicle and trailer brakes have been applied and locked out before unloading begins.


  • tie the load to an object to drag it off the vehicle.
  • use an industrial truck for any purpose for which it was not designed or equipped, such as pushing or pulling a load or any other object, unless approved by the manufacturer.

Where unloading cannot be done safely, leave the load on the vehicle until safe unloading conditions can be provided.

Load-shifting plant

All people operating load shifting plant must be trained and competent in the plant they are to operate and hold relevant licenses and/or certificates. A person undergoing training may operate this equipment under the direct supervision of a person who holds a current certificate of competency.

Overhead/mobile cranes

Cranes are commonly used to unload material. The following points must be considered as part of your risk assessment:

  • All people must be clear of the work area during the lifting operation.
  • Crane operators must be trained and hold a current certificate of competency, and be competent in the operation of the particular crane being used.
  • The person in control of the lifting equipment must ensure that the lifting operation can be carried out safely before work starts.
  • No-one should stand on a load once it has been attached to lifting equipment.

Vehicle-mounted cranes

These cranes can be of particular use for unloading at a site where no other lifting equipment is available. They should only be operated by a trained and competent operator—people who have been trained to use overhead cranes should not assume that this makes them competent to use vehicle-mounted cranes as well. The precautions listed above for overhead cranes also apply to vehicle-mounted types.

Forklift trucks

When using forklift trucks for unloading, it is essential to consider the lifting capacity of the truck, size and spread of the tines, the ground on which the truck is being used and the size and stability of loads. For non-routine items, a lifting plan, formulated and supervised by a competent person, will be necessary.

The delivery plan should consider how to position the load on the vehicle, so that it can be unloaded safely. When forklift trucks are being used, the driver of the delivery vehicle must stand away from the load and in a designated area while it is being lifted or manipulated. No-one should ever stand on a load to balance it on the tines.

Manual unloading

A decision to unload manually should not be taken by workers at the delivery point. Loads that may be suitable for manual unloading (for example small amounts of lightweight material) should be identified as such in the delivery plan, following a suitable and sufficient assessment which identifies the precautions needed to reduce the risk of injury.

Manual handling should not be seen as an option merely because no other means of unloading is available. The delivery plan should specify the precautions to be taken to reduce the risk of injury, and should include sufficient instructions for those people doing the work. If the risk assessment shows that a load cannot be unloaded safely by manual means, and there are no alternative ways of unloading, the operation will have to be abandoned and the load returned to the supplier.

Acts and Regulations

Standards Australia

Further information

Should you require further assistance please contact WorkSafe's Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 or (03) 9641 1444.

Note: This material has been prepared using the best information available to WorkSafe Victoria. Any information about legislative obligations or responsibilities included in this material is only applicable to the circumstances described in the material. You should always check the legislation referred to in this material and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have complied with the law. Accordingly, the Victorian WorkCover Authority extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your specific circumstances.