Tailgate lifters and loading ramps on vehicles and trailers

Two employees have received serious crush injuries in recent workplace incidents involving the uncontrolled fall of hydraulically operated loading ramps and tailgate lifters.


Safety risks

Loading ramps are generally used to help load wheeled or tracked mobile plant onto and off vehicles or trailers. Tailgate lifters are fitted to a wide range of vehicles to help load and unload goods from the vehicle. These ramps and tailgates are heavy and therefore hydraulic systems are often fitted to the vehicle or trailer to raise and lower them. But if these systems are not designed, installed, operated and maintained correctly, employees can be seriously injured from being struck by the falling ramp or tailgate.

Ways to prevent injuries

Duty holders must provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Some ways to minimise the risk of an uncontrolled fall of ramps or tailgates include:

  • using burst protection (load holding) valves in the hydraulic system to prevent an uncontrolled fall of the ramp or tailgate if there is a hydraulic pressure failure
  • using double-acting hydraulic cylinders to eliminate the need to apply additional external force
  • ensuring controls are positioned so that they are clear of the ramp or tailgate’s movement area, including any potential crushing zone
  • providing constant pressure type or hold to run controls to ensure the operator is located out of the potential crushing zone
  • if remote controls are used, ensuring the operator does not enter the potential crushing zone of the ramp or tailgate 
  • using positive mechanical devices, such as bolts or ratchet devices, to secure the ramp / tailgate in the raised position and ensure the operator accesses the devices from the side of the vehicle / trailer  
  • ensuring no-one enters the potential crushing zone of the ramp or tailgate unless it is fully lowered to the floor or has been mechanically secured in the raised position
  • regularly inspecting and maintaining the ramp or tailgate and associated equipment
  • providing adequate information, instruction, training and/or supervision to persons operating or maintaining the ramp, tailgate or the associated hydraulic system
  • ensuring procedures are in place to manage the repair in the event of ramp, tailgate or hydraulic failure or malfunction. Forklift trucks should not be used as a makeshift hydraulic system to raise the ramp or tailgate as this could increase the stored energy and pose a risk to people in the vicinity.