April 2019


21 Mar 2019, Learn, Prove Your Know How, Safety

In a crash, unsecured tools can take the situation from bad to worse – so make sure they are secured or separated

Sometimes the biggest threat to people in a head-on crash is the things that are behind them.

A collision in Hamilton in early February between two vans saw Waikato Police warning tradies that unsecured tools and cargo can become painful, if not deadly, missiles in an accident.

In a Facebook statement about the crash, the Police said wood and tools came flying out of the van as it collided with another vehicle that had crossed the centre line.

“Upon impact, the contents of the Toyota Hiace (including tools) have come flying forwards, towards the driver and his passenger.

“If you are a tradie or own a company, this may be an opportunity to consider any improvements that you can make (in case of an emergency).”

The van driver later told The New Zealand Herald that it wasn’t the wood that broke his windscreen, but accepted that some tools had gone rogue. He said four tools – a clamp, a glue gun, hack saw and multi box – flew out the window, but they were the only things that were unsecured in the van.


Site Safe says putting a barrier between people and objects makes good sense, particularly for tradies and construction workers.

The gravitational force (g-force) on people and objects during collisions that occur around the 50km per hour mark is usually around 20-25 times more than normal. So, for a brief instant, even a 1kg water bottle will have the force of 20-25kg as it flies forward – until it hits the dashboard, the windscreen, or the back of someone’s head.

Even a 1kg water bottle will have the force of 20-25kg as it flies forward – until it hits the dashboard, the windscreen, or the back of someone’s head

Otaki St. John ambulance officer Trevor Hunter has dealt with several vehicle accidents involving unsecured items including, tragically, two fatal ones. Another one, he says, was much luckier for the occupants. They were in a head-on crash, which saw a large oxy acetylene cylinder fly out from the back of the van, shooting between them and burying itself in the dashboard.

Another first responder from Otago recalls a call-out where a vehicle had rolled. She says it wasn’t the actual rolling that killed a person in the car, it was a combination of a loose tool box, a chainsaw, and other heavy items.

There are several ways to minimise the risk from such things happening. Keeping them secure is one, keeping tools and materials separated from people via a cargo barrier is another. Of the current range of cargo barriers that are available, the range from Australia’s Milford Industries is one of those that meets the NZS 4034 standard for cargo barriers.

Properly fitted barriers, as well as protecting people from fast-moving objects, may also offer extra protection if the vehicle rolls.

Site Safe also recommends that liquids are securely stowed in correct bottle containers and where possible, fuel should be in a separate trailer.

Site Safe is a not-for-profit, membership-based organisation that promotes, inspires and supports a culture of health and safety in New Zealand construction.

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