Metal fabrication: Improving safety in loading and unloading areas through layout and design

Guidance for employers on how to use layout and design in loading and unloading areas to eliminate or reduce workplace health and safety risks in the metal fabrication industry.


Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. Where a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

The duties of employers include providing the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also consult with employees and health and safety representatives, where present, when identifying hazards and risks and implementing controls to eliminate or, where not reasonably practicable to do so, minimise them.

Layout and design

Consider the layout and design of your unloading and loading areas, including impacts on loading and unloading tasks, as well as how traffic in these areas is managed. 

Think about how all of this impacts on the health and safety of your employees and independent contractors.

Loading and unloading areas

Clearly mark designated loading and unloading areas, including driver safety zones and vehicle unloading areas with barriers and railings (figures 1 and 2) or lines and painted areas (figure 3)

portable, expandable barrier blocking an entrance
Figure 1: Movable barriers installed at worksite entrance prevent people and vehicles from entering the unloading and loading areas.
metal barrier bolted to the floor
Figure 2: Permanent physical barriers separate delivery areas from workstations.
red line and the word "LOADING" painted in red marking out a loading zone
Figure 3: Loading zone clearly marked with a highly visible red line and labelling.

Arrange for delivery and despatch vehicles to move through the worksite in a continuous direction (figure 4).

car moving into area B (vehicle path) from right to left. Next to it is a driver safety zone (A) and a pedestrian walkway (C).
Figure 4 Unloading and loading area is designed so trucks can move through the workplace in one direction. Image shows driver safety zone (A), vehicle path (B), and Pedestrian walkway (C). Safety zone and walkway are separated from the vehicle path.

Place loading areas close to the end of the production area or finished product storage area (figure 5).

truck parked and finished products are being lifted onto it.
Figure 5: Finished products are stored at the end of the production line where the trucks will load them for transportation.

Ensure there is enough room for mechanical handling equipment to safely operate within the delivery and dispatch areas.

Information about how to use housekeeping and indoor and outdoor layout and design to reduce or eliminate workplace health and safety risks in the metal fabrication industry can be found in Metal fabrication: Improving safety through housekeeping (indoor and outdoor) layout and design.

Loading and unloading tasks

Consider using mechanical handling equipment to assist with loading and unloading tasks.

Information on mechanical handling equipment is at Metal fabrication: Improving safety through transporting materials layout and design.

Where there is a need to access vehicle trailers to 'chock' or secure loads and there is a risk of falling more than 2 metres, employers must eliminate any risk of falling as far as is reasonably practicable by implementing the controls as specified in the Prevention of Falls regulations.

If the risk of falling cannot be eliminated, employers must reduce any remaining risk as far as is reasonably practicable by implementing the following ordered controls so workers have safe and easy access to vehicle trailers.

  1. Eliminate the risk by, for example, arranging for the task to be done on the ground or on a solid construction
  2. If not reasonably practicable to comply with (1), and a risk remains, then the employer must ensure passive fall prevention device is used (such as raised finger docks or fixed or mobile platforms).
  3. If still a risk then work positioning system must be used to reduce the risk (such as ropes, travel restraints)
  4. If still a risk, the employer must put in place fall arrest system(such as catch platforms, safety nets and safety harnesses)
  5. If still a risk, only then can the employer reduce the risk by ensuring that fixed or portable ladders or administrative controls are used.

Traffic management

Develop and implement an effective traffic management plan in loading and unloading areas to prevent people, vehicles and powered mobile plant interacting.

Ensure exclusion zones and driver safety zones are clearly marked within loading and unloading areas.

Information on traffic management can be found at Metal fabrication: Improving safety through traffic management layout and design.

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