Stabiliser shake-up

In August 2022, Skanska’s ban of lorry loaders fitted with hydraulic swing-up stabiliser legs caused a mini construction industry tsunami. Peter Shakespeare drills down into what happened and how the construction industry pulled together to ensure what caused it can never happen again

Following the tragic death of a lorry loader driver/operator at a Skanska site in Bristol in September 2021, less than a year later the tier one construction company led a ban of all loader crane vehicles from construction sites whose stabiliser legs hydraulically swing up and rotate across a fixed control panel on the vehicle for storage. An exception was made for vehicles fitted to prevent the stabiliser beam from being fully retracted with the leg in a horizontal position.

The vehicles affected by the ban predominantly deliver lighter bulky items such as cabins and welfare units to site.

Dylan Roberts, Skanska UK’s director for health, safety, wellbeing and quality, said that prior to the fatality at his company’s Shirehampton (Bristol) construction site, the risk of a loader crane operator being trapped against the fixed control panel on the vehicle by a retracting raised stabiliser leg was not perceived. “This type of incident was a complete one-off for us – and I think for most of the industry – and not something we had even previously recorded as a near miss,” he explains. “Our expectation was that training and information provided to driver/operators by their employers was sufficient. The details of how this incident occurred is a matter for the public record, but the safe operation of this type of stabiliser leg relies on the operator knowing where that stabiliser leg is at all times during its operation. We don’t know the exact sequence of events that led to this fatality.”

While it is possible that this driver/operator was distracted, the fact the design and operation of the swing-up type stabiliser leg would allow it to trap the person using manual controls on the vehicle created waves across the tier one construction industry.

Immediately after the fatality, Skanska UK and the Association of Lorry Loaders Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI) launched an industry-wide awareness campaign working with the Tier One Health and Safety Forum (a collaboration between a number of tier one contractors) and the Health and Safety Executive. ALLMI issued an industry-wide safety alert following the fatality, but a full ban of in-scope lorry loader vehicles didn’t take effect for another 10 months.

The ban was implemented in August 2022, but seems to be have been misreported in some quarters, with confusion around manual and remote operation of the crane and stabilisers, points which Roberts is keen to clarify. He says: “In relation to remotely operated stabilisers, the ban was not about the main operation of this type of plant; it was about where the manual or emergency controls are positioned on the vehicle, and if you could be trapped by the stabiliser leg while using them. If the manual or emergency controls are in a position where the operator cannot be trapped, or the stabiliser leg swings up away from them, then those vehicles were not banned.”

As part of the risk assessment process, Roberts confirms that Skanska, along with other tier one construction companies and industry bodies, has also taken a closer look at other vehicles and equipment brought to site to ascertain if there are any issues, but so far nothing significant has been picked up. He adds that construction contractors Mace and Balfour Beatty have been proactive in discussing and setting a common industry position on the issue, and joined Skanska in banning these types of vehicles. While Roberts confirms that the ban will remain in place, ALLMI has been central to new safety standards and guidance, and manufacturers have designed modifications.

The change to European loader crane design standard EN12999 is expected to be finalised later this year. However, ALLMI CEO Tom Wakefield explains: “It should be emphasised that the amendment to the standard is unlikely to impact new builds until 2024 at the earliest, and in the meantime, there is no requirement for manufacturers to implement technical solutions or engineering measures… this will need to be driven by lorry loader owners. Therefore, our advice to lorry loader owners with cranes of this type on order or in service is that they contact their supplier to discuss available modifications that prevent the trapping risk.”

He adds: “For applicable equipment in service that has not been modified, accidents of this type will be prevented if ALLMI’s guidance material and the manufacturer’s instructions are followed at all times.”

ALLMI has carried out a great deal of work in relation to this issue, including releasing a guidance note on the safe use of swing-up stabilisers and safety alert to the industry and all ALLMI cardholders. It has produced a safe use of swing-up stabilisers safety video and e-learning module for operators, supervisors and other site staff. Although the safe use of swing-up stabilisers was already covered within ALLMI training, this content has been further enhanced and greater detail added. Finally, it has created and implemented the Swing-Up Stabilisers Compliance Register, a QR code/web-based system that allows sites to identify equipment compliant with Tier One Health and Safety Forum requirements.

Roberts says Skanska has also engaged with companies such as Lynch Plant Hire and Sunbelt Rentals, which supply a large number of cabins and welfare units to the construction industry, so they were clear on the tier one policy and had the opportunity to react. He adds that before the full ban was enforced in September 2022, supervisory measures were put in place by tier one companies to give ALLMI, the industry and their suppliers the opportunity to put additional safety guidance in place, change their equipment or get any required modifications fitted without compromising service provision.

In summary, the Skanska health and safety director says: “As an industry we need to be more vigilant and look out for hazards and risks that no one has perceived, by continually asking… ‘what if?’ The biggest lesson we have learned from this is the importance of joining up the industry when situations like this occur.”

In February 2023, HSE issued a ‘supportive statement’ to ALLMI and the Tier One Health and Safety Forum: “HSE encourages and appreciates the collaborative work being done between the industry association (ALLMI) and tier one contractors to improve the safety in use of loader cranes. HSE welcomes the speed of response by the industry in producing revised safety notices, guidance and training. HSE urges all owners and users of lorry loaders to give due regard to the information available on the ALLMI website and to ensure their safety in use.”


Safetymax, designed and manufactured by Motormax, generates audible and visual alerts to drivers. The system combines camera, viewing, warning and parking sensor technology to give drivers enhanced visibility while manoeuvring a vehicle at low speeds. Alerts are spoken voice and visual to highlight issues such as stabiliser legs not stowed (below).


ALLMI confirms that the Tier One Health and Safety Forum will permit lorry loaders with swing-up stabilisers to operate on site if any one of the following applies:

  • Fixed control stations (including emergency control stations) are located outside of the swing-up arc of the stabiliser leg (on both sides of the vehicle)
  • Fixed control stations (including emergency control stations) are located within the swing-up arc of the stabiliser leg, but a manufacturer- or authorised representative-approved technical solution is fitted that prevents the stabiliser beam from being fully retracted unless the leg is in the vertical/upright position
  • Stabilisers have a manually operated swing-up function (regardless of whether fixed control stations are located within the swing-up arc) meaning the stabiliser beam cannot be retracted with the leg in a horizontal position.

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