Tipper truck and trailer rollover crushes traffic controller

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the importance of managing the risks associated with tip trucks and trailers following a recent fatality.

Published: 20 July 2022


Incidents involving tipper truck and trailer rollovers continue to occur across Victorian workplaces. Most rollovers occur during tipping activities due to instability of the truck or trailer on uneven, unstable or inclined ground.

In a recent incident, a traffic controller was fatally injured when the trailer of a tip truck rolled while unloading gravel into a culvert, the trailer was fully elevated.

Safety issues

The risks to persons in proximity of a truck or trailer and its fall zone can be catastrophic.

Common Hazards

Hazards that may contribute to instability of tipper trucks and trailers include:

  • tipping on uneven, unstable or inclined ground
  • repetitive tipping in the same spot
  • unloading on a decline, with the truck cabin lower than the trailer body
  • large volumes of solid or wet material sticking to the trailer body can alter the centre of gravity when the trailer body is elevated
  • low traction surfaces
  • overhead structures
  • faulty or misused braking systems
  • nearby mobile or fixed plant
  • moving the vehicle whilst the body is elevated or having the trailer dolly at an angle to the body

Note: The risk of a tipper truck or trailer rollover increases the higher the trailer body is elevated. Longer and larger trailers often need to be elevated higher, decreasing the stability and increasing the risk of a rollover. Some trailer designs may not be capable of tipping on slopes greater 5° degrees.

Recommended ways to control risk

To reduce the risks associated with tipper trucks and trailers becoming unstable during unloading, employers should:

  • select plant that provides increased levels of stability, for example conveyors, walking floors, belly dumpers, pusher/ ejector plant, side tippers
  • ensure the tipping surface area is level, compacted and stable
  • ensure there is adequate space to align the tipper
  • use trailers with non-stick liners to reduce the height the trailer body needs to be elevated
  • install tailgate interlocks to prevent elevating the trailer body unless the tailgate is unlocked
  • consider installing an Inclinometer (see figure 1)
  • establish appropriate safe systems of work to ensure:
    • all loads are evenly distributed within the trailers and weight limits are complied with
    • pedestrian exclusion zones are established around unloading areas particularly behind and adjacent to a truck whilst tipping
    • there is a clear process of spotting and communicating between the driver and a spotter. The spotter can monitor the tipping process from outside the exclusion zone & alert the driver if materials become stuck.
    • the trailer is not moved or rocked whilst the body is elevated.
Figure 1: Inclinometer

Legal duties

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 (including labour hire employees, independent contractors and employees of independent contractors)
  • provide and maintain plant (eg tipper trucks) or systems of work that are so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to the health of employees
  • provide employees with 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
  • so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures

Both employers and self-employed persons must:

  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons (other than employees) are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer or self-employed person’s undertaking.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, employers and self-employed persons must also:

  • identify all hazards associated with plant at the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • control risks (including by eliminating and/or reducing risks) associated with plant so far as is reasonably practicable, in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control. Measures to control risks must be reviewed and if necessary, revised in certain circumstances including if changes are made to the plant or the way it is used.
  • ensure plant is inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that risks associated with its use are monitored

For further information on the plant hierarchy of control and when to review and revise risk control measures, see the WorkSafe Plant Compliance Code.

Note: Other state and national regulators may also have duties that need to be complied with. For example: Vic Roads, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

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