Ratchet Straps – What you need to know
Ratchet straps are an industry standard for securing loads to vehicles before moving objects from A to B, but there are different types of ratchet straps and different ways to use them depending on the load you’re carrying. There is also a range of different rules, regulations and laws surrounding the use of ratchet straps and the ways in which loads are secured to vehicles before transportation.
There are two main laws that apply to the usage of ratchet straps during the transportation of goods.
Health & Safety At Work Act of 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It states that “Employers must take ‘reasonably’ practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of both their own employees and other people who might be harmed if a load shift happens on the road or in the workplace”. Additionally, “They must assess the risks of what they do and provide suitable equipment, information, and training so that drivers and loaders can load vehicles safely”.
This, in short, means that if you are using ratchet straps as part of your job, it is your responsibility as well as your employers to ensure that they are being used safely and correctly in order to avoid any accidents or injuries from happening.
Carriage Of Goods By Road Act 1965
The other main law that applies to the usage of ratchet straps during the transportation of goods is the Carriage of Goods by Road Act 1965. This act states that “Any person who carries or causes to be carried on a road any goods in a vehicle or trailer must take such steps as are reasonably necessary – (a) to secure the goods against falling, shifting, leaking or spilling; and (b) to prevent them from damaging the vehicle or trailer or anything carried in or on the vehicle or trailer”.
This means that, if you are transporting any goods on the road, you must take steps to secure them in such a way that they will not fall out of the vehicle or trailer, shift during transport, leak or spill, and cause damage to the vehicle or anything else being transported at the same time.
The Provision & Use Of Work Equipment of 1998 (PUWER)
The above laws are supported by The Provision & Use Of Work Equipment of 1998 (PUWER) which states that “work equipment must be fit for purpose, maintained and inspected to spot damage before it affects the safety of the equipment, and use only by people who have received appropriate training and information”. This outlines that employers must ensure proper training is given to their employees about the proper usage of securing loads, like sing ratchet straps as they too are liable for improper use.
However, if you are the one responsible for loading the vehicle, you must only accept the responsibility of loading a vehicle if you feel that you have been properly trained and have the appropriate knowledge to safely and securely use ratchet straps during loading, transit and unloading.
Who is Responsible for Securing Loads with Ratchet Straps
Most people believe that the driver has the sole responsibility to ensure that vehicle goods are safely secured, however, this isn’t actually the case. The driver is not the only person responsible for the safety of the vehicle and its load.
In fact, everybody in the supply chain should make themselves aware of the different rules set out in the Department for Transportation Code of Practice: Safety of Loads on Vehicles which gives great guidance for securing all loads carried on vehicles. The practice guide includes information for staff that are involved in the loading and unloading of vehicles including:
- High loads & HGVs
- Ferry operations
- Loader cranes
- Landing legs
The DVSA has also published a useful video called Load Securing: Roles and Responsibilities which provides great information relating to the responsibilities around ratchet straps.
GOV.UK. (n.d.). Load securing: vehicle operator guidance. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/load-securing-vehicle-operator-guidance/load-securing-vehicle-operator-guidance.
Risk assessments are a critical part of health and safety for all businesses, and this includes those who use ratchet straps during their work. A risk assessment is a formal process that is used to identify potential hazards and risks in the workplace so that steps can be taken to mitigate them.
Risk assessments should be carried out by a competent person, which is somebody who has the necessary knowledge, experience and training to identify potential risks and hazards.
When carrying out a risk assessment for the usage of ratchet straps, the following should be considered:
- The type of load being transported
- The weight of the load
- The size and dimensions of the load
- The destination of the load
- The route the load will take
- The weather conditions that may be encountered during transport
- The type of vehicle being used to transport the load
- The type of trailer being used to transport the load
- The number of ratchet straps being used
- The condition of the ratchet straps
Once the above risks have been identified, steps can be taken to mitigate them. This may include using additional ratchet straps, ensuring that the straps are in good condition, or changing the route to avoid potential hazards.
In addition to performing risk assessments before transporting goods, it’s a good idea to communicate with the suppliers, as well as the pickup and delivery location site managers to identify any issues that may be present (such as roadworks, damaged roads or difficult to access areas) that may make transportation tricky.
It’s also important for the driver to communicate with suppliers to ensure they are fully aware of the goods that are being collected and the way in which they are packaged, to ensure they can be properly secured for transportation.
Wherever possible, drivers should be fully involved in the loading process of goods as their experience may help the loaders to identify any further problems that occur prior to the vehicle setting off on its journey. The load should be secured to the trailer and checked by the driver before driving onto the road.
It’s also important to bear in mind that if loads are secured using webbing straps, you need to make sure that they can be secured to either:
- Directly to the chassis of the trailer
- To designated and rated attachment points
How to Safely Use Ratchet Straps
After learning the risks of improper ratchet strap usage, it’s a good idea to learn how to safely use ratchet straps which we will break down into simple steps for both attaching ratchet straps and releasing ratchet straps.
Attaching Ratchet Straps
- First, you must put the tie-down straps loose end into the ratchet’s mandrel – the cylindrical round rod.
- You then pull the rest of the strap through the mandrel.
- Make the strap tight by pulling the slack through the mandrel.
- You use the ratchet to achieve the desired level of tautness.
- Take care not to tangle the strap.
- Finally, lock the handle into place when you achieve the tautness you want.
Releasing Ratchet Straps
- Pull the trigger toward the back handle
- Opening the ratchet fully
- On release, take all the webbing out of the mandrel.
- Pull the trigger to unlock, then close the ratchet back down.
For a more detailed explanation about using ratchet straps, we have written a guide titled how to ensure cargo is safe with ratchet straps which includes a lot of additional information relating to the safe usage of tie-down straps for the transportation of goods.
Keeping Up To Date With The Law
If you work in the transportation industry, and commonly work with ratchet straps and transportation then you will probably want to keep up to date with the latest laws which are fast-changing making it difficult to stay in the know. Fortunately, the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) regularly updates its “Moving On” blog which regularly posts official advice and information for lorries, vans, drivers and operators that may be useful and relevant to you.
If you have any specific questions about ratchet straps, contact WebEx Supply for information or advice about any of our products.