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It's curtains for safety

03 March 2016

When it comes to distribution, health and safety is a major priority and installing the most suitable trailer curtains for a fleet is a decision that requires careful thought, says Structure-flex.

Health and safety is of paramount importance in the handling of goods and whether the requirement is for an individual curtain, a fleet refurbishment project, or complete new build, the specification for each curtain may differ greatly depending on the trailer use.

A flexible approach to design and manufacture is likely to bring the best results, and curtain siders have developed over time from simple flat sheets and tarpaulins, welded curtains and pocket strap, to ‘load bearing’, and the current specification of ‘EN rated’ curtains.

Load restraint has also evolved over time as Paul Reeve, managing director at Structure-flex explains: “It is no longer deemed acceptable to use Siamese straps suspended from a ridge pole on curtain sided vehicles, nor is it considered suitable to attach hooks to anything other than specific lashing points.

“The lashings have to be capable of performing the task required and suitably labelled demonstrating this capacity. Health and Safety legislation covering Working at Height and the Best Practise Guidelines is further restraining – throwing the tail end of a ratchet strap over the load, for example, is somewhat frowned upon nowadays.”

The legislation governing unsafe loads and guidance around securing specific items has been in existence for quite some time. The latest guidance by the DVSA covering Load Securing states that the securing of a load should be of primary concern for all road users, whether using a seat belt to secure our loved ones in the family car, or transporting groceries in lorries to the local supermarket. 

The advice provided suggests that curtain-sided vehicles should use additional load restraint as the curtains are designed as weather protection only. The only exceptions are vehicles manufactured to the European Standard EN 12642 XL, which incorporate curtains manufactured specifically to that standard, and where these and the body structure have been tested accordingly and approved.

Paul continued: “Structure-flex supply EN rated curtains to body builders that manufacture and market vehicles that have passed the appropriate test and are badged as such, but the important point to remember is that the EN legislation refers to the testing of specific vehicle body structures and is, therefore, based upon the curtains fitted to that particular vehicle.”

Curtains fitted to any vehicle that has passed the testing and can display the XL rating must be constructed in accordance with the guidelines set out, or have been manufactured and tested upon the vehicle in question. 

Structure-flex manufactures and supplies EN – XL rated curtains to a number of manufacturers in the UK where there is documentation acknowledging that the vehicle has passed the correct tests. In that respect, the badge is simply fitted to the curtains/vehicle to demonstrate this fact and the driver or owner should be in possession of the supporting documentation to substantiate this claim.

Regulations also state that it is not acceptable to rely on friction as a method of securing loads and that, if necessary, items must be secured by secondary restraints so as to prevent them becoming a danger. 

There are many options available for restraining the loads: from suspended ratchet systems to side nets and simple ratchet straps that are correctly and safely fitted. Most of these may be tailored to suit the load and company working practises, so the decision as to which system best fits the journey can be both informed and correct.

Paul concluded: “Most curtain siders may be tailored to suit the load and company working practises, so the decision as to which system is most fit for purpose needs to be both informed and correct. Our advice would be to approach a reputable manufacturer that offers a comprehensive range of curtains and a complete guidance service.”