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Pallet network hauliers need to urgently campaign for pallet weight guidance to protect their staff from harm and themselves from prosecution, Rase Distribution chairman Geoff Hill warned this week.

His warning follows the news that Reason Transport indicated a plea of guilty to charges in connection with the death of HGV driver Petru Pop at its hearing on 28 August at High Wycombe Magistrates Court.

Pop was crushed to death as he was trying to unload a pallet of tiles weighing 1.1 tonne which he had delivered to a residential address in High Wycombe in November 2016. Pop was delivering the load on behalf of Coventry-based Reason Transport, which was a Palletways member at the time.

Reason Transport will be sentenced on October 2016 at High Wycombe Magistrates court.

Hill has long campaigned for a limit on pallet weights for tail lift deliveries. In November 2018 Lincolnshire-based Rase Distribution went head to head with Palletways by introducing a pallet weight ban on loads above 750kg.

This followed a risk assessment carried out by the firm that led it to conclude that tail-lift deliveries of pallets above 750kg to residential addresses posed an unacceptable risk to drivers.

However, Palletways refused to acknowledge the limit, which left the Lincolnshire haulier shouldering thousands of pounds of courier costs for the delivery of pallet loads above 750kg, which it refused to handle under its safety policy. Rase Distribution quit Palletways in January this year.

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This week Hill questioned why clear guidelines on pallet weights have yet to be published, despite an industry working group, in partnership with HSE, having worked on draft guidelines since 2015.

Hill said: “If the guidelines had existed in 2016 Petru Pop could have been alive today. We started a crusade at Rase but it is an unfinished one.

“This case will become established case law and will put the onus directly onto the operator. The responsibility has bypassed the consignor and the pallet network and landed entirely on the shoulders of the pallet network haulier.

“Therefore pallet network hauliers need to realise how important it is that there is reliable and clear guidance to protect their drivers and their businesses. They need to demand that clear guidance on pallet weights be published immediately.”

Despite significant industry concern about the lack of weight limits on pallets designated for tail lift deliveries – particularly to domestic addresses - the pallet weight working group and the HSE has yet to produce guidance on this issue.

An HSE investigation into pallet weights for tail lift vehicles in 2018 resulted in HSE recommending no limit on pallet weights and a requirement that drivers make a risk assessment of the safety of each tail-lift delivery.

The recommendations were passed to the pallet weight working group, which put together draft guidance, which was passed back for approval to HSE early this year. The HSE has yet to approve the guidance.