Are you looking forward to an adventure-packed year of touring? The UK has many world-class destinations perfect for exploring in a motorhome. But motoring around this beautiful country isn’t without its health and safety risks. From overloaded motorhomes and narrow rural roads to slippery shower blocks and poorly lit paths, there are plenty of ways for your perfect plans to be undone.
Wondering about the best way to protect yourself against the fallout from any accidents and mishaps? Then look no further. As well as arranging motorhome insurance to cover you in the event of an accident or theft, you’ll also want to read this guide to all the risks you might encounter along the way. Remember, being well prepared is key to a successful trip.
Whether you’re setting off for a wild adventure somewhere completely different or returning to a tried-and-tested site, take a read through our 30 motorhome health and safety risks before you go. It’s the perfect way to prepare for your next getaway. Who knows, it might even save you from a costly mishap!
- Poorly maintained gas and electrical systems
- Faulty or missing safety equipment
- Missed pre-journey checks
- Poor motorhome restoration work
- Slips and trips
- Bad lifting technique
- Overloaded or unevenly loaded motorhome
- Fallen leaves, ice, and potholes
- Reduced visibility when manoeuvring
- Narrow rural roads
- Motorway dangers
- Parking pressures
- Vulnerable road users and animals on the road
- Bad weather
- Unsecured passengers and pets
- Driver tiredness
- Busy ferry terminals
- Unexpected stowaways
- Camp fires and barbeques
- Traffic on site
- Site paths and tracks
- Poor on-site lighting
- Getting stuck in the mud
- Slippery shower blocks
- Play areas and unsupervised children
- Electrical hook-ups
- Leaky LPG
- Inappropriate disposal of hazardous waste
- Water dangers
Poorly maintained gas and electrical systems
A gas leak, fire or even an explosion could put an end to your trip in seconds – not to mention risking the lives of you and your fellow travellers. That’s why it’s so important to book your motorhome in for a regular habitation check. While having motorhome insurance in place is a good way to protect you in case something goes wrong, that’s no substitute for having a qualified professional inspect your gas, electrical and water systems.
Gas cylinders in particular can be a source of risk for a variety of reasons. From poor hose connections and damaged cylinders to storing cylinders near a heat source, there are various risks to be aware of. Make sure everyone knows how to spot a problem with your gas system and what to do if they smell gas. For lots more information on motorhome habitation checks, read this guide.
Faulty or missing safety equipment
Whether a month-long trip or just an overnight stay, having the correct safety equipment for your motorhome is an absolute essential. You will definitely need smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, an extinguisher and fire blanket. In England and Wales, there are around 40 deaths and 200-250 non-fatal poisonings requiring hospital treatment every year because of CO poisoning. Protecting yourselves with functioning safety equipment and knowing how to spot carbon monoxide poisoning is vital. There’s really no excuse for taking a chance on this!
Missed pre-journey checks
Every time you set out in your motorhome you need to make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible to keep you safe and secure. As a bare minimum you should:
- Check the condition and pressure of your tyres. Don’t forget the spare.
- Are all internal and external lights clean and working?
- Do you have enough fuel?
- Are windscreen wiper blades in good condition and windscreen washer fluid topped up?
- Check your brakes.
- Are all windows and mirrors clean and damage free?
- Check the charge on your batteries. Are all the connections and cables clean and secure?
- Check engine coolant levels.
- Is your motorhome insurance up to date and does it cover your trip?
Discovering a problem before you even leave home is much more preferable to when you’re out on the road and far from help.
Poor motorhome restoration work
Taking on a motorhome restoration project is a dream of many van-life fans. But unfortunately, it can soon end up as a nightmare if you’ve taken on too much and don’t quite have the skills to meet the challenge. And when you’re feeling like you’re in over your head sometimes it can be tempting to cut corners or take on jobs you’re really not capable of. If you’re looking for motorhome restoration tips then there’s some great advice out there. But remember, safety first. Never take a chance when it comes to motorhome restoration work!
Slips and trips
With limited space and constant activity in and out of the motorhome, it’s all too easy to suffer an accident. Whether slipping on some spilled liquid when cooking or tripping over a pair of walking boots in the middle of the night, there’s ample opportunity to injure yourself if you don’t run a tight ship! For motorhome owners, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ is a good proverb to live by.
Bad lifting technique
Just like slips and trips, injuries from lifting and carrying are a serious risk to motorhome users. Whether changing an LPG cylinder or lifting bikes off a rack, a sprain or strain can put a real spanner in the works when you’re camping. Why not see if you’re able to eliminate these risks entirely from your holiday? Even if you can’t do so completely, you’ll still want to minimise the risks if you can. Here are some examples:
- Set up your motorhome to limit the need to push, pull or carry heavy loads.
- Position storage and equipment at accessible heights.
- Always use safe lifting techniques. The NHS has some tips here.
Overloaded or unevenly loaded motorhome
Do you know the payload of your motorhome? If you don’t, then you’d better find out. With ample amounts of storage space in modern motorhomes it’s all too easy to over pack. You really would be surprised at how much a fully-loaded motorhome can weigh. All that outdoor equipment, extra blankets, board games, electronic devices, and kitchenware soon adds up.
And if you haven’t organised the inside of your motorhome appropriately then weight can shift around and create a danger to both driver and passengers. As well as being hit by falling items, exceeding a vehicle’s maximum payload can make handling and braking much trickier. And if an accident does happen then it can be even more dangerous.
Remember, it’s not only risky to overload your vehicle but it could also invalidate your motorhome insurance if an accident does happen.
Fallen leaves, ice, and potholes
Whether skidding on fallen leaves and ice or hitting a pothole at speed there are many dangers on the UK roads that you need to watch out for. Many of these also become hidden during certain times of the year, so take extra care if you’re touring during the autumn or winter months. To avoid danger and damage, check your tyres regularly and keep an eye on your speed.
Reduced visibility when manoeuvring
Your motorhome is probably much larger than the car you drive on a daily basis. So, it’s always worth bearing in mind its blind spots will be very different. Always take extra when changing lanes or manoeuvring while travelling. Particularly if you’ve only just started your trip and haven’t got used to the change yet. You could also invest in some rear-facing cameras to give you extra visibility.
Narrow rural roads
Particularly if this is your first time driving a motorhome, then you’ll want to be fully prepared for the risks that come with driving on narrow rural roads. Despite their tranquil appearance they are, in fact, some of the most dangerous roads on which to travel. According to the Department of Transport, of the 1,752 road deaths in 2019, the majority (57%) occurred on rural roads.
From blind bends and corners to non-existent lighting and speeding drivers, there's a surprising amount of danger here. Keeping your speed down and staying alert despite the beautiful surroundings is the best way to keep you and your motorhome safe from harm.
Motorways are statistically the safest type of roads in the UK, accounting for 20% of traffic but just 6% of fatalities. But it still pays to read up on how to stay safe when using them. When driving such a large vehicle at such high speeds you’ll need to take care with your driving behaviour. This includes reading up on stopping distances, looking even further ahead, and taking extra care at night or when entering and leaving the motorway. And if your journey is on one of the controversial Smart motorways then read up on these golden rules from Highways England on how to use them safely.
Parking a motorhome can be a particular hazard and can result in costly damage if you’re not careful. When parking try the following tips:
- Get a passenger to help guide you into the space using a set of pre-agreed signals.
- Take a good look around to check for unseen obstacles.
- Keep it slow and steady. That way you’ll limit the damage if the worst does happen.
- Invest in additional mirrors or reversing cameras and sensors.
- Book yourself into a motorhome manoeuvring course. It’ll help your confidence and keep everyone safer.
Vulnerable road users and animals on the road
Exploring the UK’s many rural highways and byways is a wonderful experience. However, it does sometimes mean you’ll encounter wildlife or livestock loose on the road. Keep your speed slow and stay aware of the dangers of your stunning surroundings.
You might also come across other more vulnerable road users enjoying the freedom of the open road. Always stay aware of walkers, cyclists, horse riders and anyone else who needs you to take extra care around them. As the larger vehicle it’s your responsibility to keep them safe.
Anyone touring the UK in a motorhome will probably be expecting some bad weather on occasions. From snow, ice, and high winds to heavy rainfall or thick fog, there’s an incredible array of weather risks to contend with. Staying tuned into the weather forecasts is the best way to stay ahead and take alternative routes or delay your journey if necessary.
On the subject of weather, when you’re exploring out-of-the-way locations it’s all too common to come across flooded roads. If you’re a visitor then you probably won’t know the road or how deep the water is. It’s probably better to find an alternative route around rather than to get stuck!
If you do get into trouble then you’ll be pleased you had breakdown cover to complement your motorhome insurance.
Unsecured passengers and pets
If you’re involved in an accident while passengers or pets are not secured then it’s far more likely to result in injury or even death. Always use travel seats fitted with seatbelts to keep everyone safe from harm.
In terms of travelling with your four-legged friends, you must keep dogs or other animals suitably restrained. The Animal Trust recommends using a properly installed crate, carrier or travel harness suitable for your pet during transport. If you don’t, and if you’re involved in an accident caused by your pet distracting you, then you could end up in trouble with the authorities. Check with your motorhome insurance provider to see if your policy requires you to restrain your pet.
Driving a motorhome requires the utmost care and attention. Don’t let an early start or a long day adventuring end in disaster. Be sure to take at least a 15-minute break at least every two hours of driving.
As well as regular driving breaks, top tips to beat tiredness include:
- sharing the driving;
- not eating a heavy meal before getting behind the wheel;
- avoiding peak tiredness times in the early morning or late at night;
- being aware of any medication you’re taking.
Busy ferry terminals
If you’re wanting to explore some of the most beautiful parts of the UK then you’ll have to include a trip to some of our stunning islands. However, whether getting on or off at a busy ferry terminal it’s all too easy to suffer a prang in your beloved motorhome.
While you’re unlikely to pick up a stowaway on a trip to the Isle of Wight if you’re heading onto a ferry for further afield then you might be at risk. For anyone travelling to and from Europe knowing how to avoid stowaways in your motorhome is an important consideration. Don’t forget to check that your motorhome insurance covers travel to the European Union.
Camp fires and barbeques
Fire. So warm and comforting, but also one of the oldest dangers known to humans. Never leave a fire or barbeques unattended and always keep it well away from your vehicle and sleeping areas.
Always let hot ashes cool down before disposing of them. And make sure you know where the nearest fire point is alongside assembly points and evacuation notices. One of the benefits of using club campsites is they are very well run and maintained. Another benefit is that you can often get a discount on your motorhome insurance as a club member.
The ROSPA website is an invaluable source of further information on fire safety and safety tips for motorhome tourers.
Traffic on site
Throughout the year, campsites can be busy places, with large vehicles coming and going at all times of day. Most campsites have one-way systems and speed limits to keep everyone safe. Make sure you follow the rules and always keep a careful eye out for relaxed holidaymakers who might not be looking where they’re going!
Site paths and tracks
From gravel covered hardstanding or tent guy-lines to uneven paths and slopes, it’s all too easy to take a tumble if you’re not paying close attention on a campsite. Take care, particularly if the weather has taken a turn for the worse. And never walk or cycle under raised barriers in case they lower unexpectedly. Ouch!
Poor on-site lighting
Road lighting around campsites is often low-level and subdued so it’s easy to have an accident if you’re venturing out at night without a torch to light your way. As well as taking your own lighting it might also be worth sticking to a familiar route if you need to walk around a site after dark. It might also stop you from getting lost (yet another hazard of camping on unfamiliar sites)!
Getting stuck in the mud
Some sites are open all year round, but whatever the season you’re likely to encounter rain at least once during your trip. And with rain comes the possibility of damp, soft ground – a nasty mix when you’re driving a heavy vehicle such as a motorhome.
Getting stuck on a campsite can be very irritating and embarrassing but remember, it can happen to even the most seasoned of drivers. If you’re planning on parking on the beach during your trip, check out our tips for driving on sand.
Slippery shower blocks
Hopefully whatever campsite you find yourself at, the shower and toilet blocks will be well maintained and cleaned daily. However, no matter how high the standard, the floors of these areas can often become very slippery at busy times of day.
Another risk to avoid is being burnt or scalded when using the facilities. Showers and taps at campsites often have very hot water in order to control the Legionella bacteria. So, take care.
Play areas and unsupervised children
Yes, parents or guardians must be responsible for their children, but other site owners also must be aware that children may be running around the site. Many campsites have extensive play areas and other activities perfect for children. But nothing is ever entirely without risk. Pay attention to any age restrictions and any rules of the site – they’re there for your child’s safety.
And if your children do have bikes, scooters or skateboards then make them aware of the need to keep their speed down and the possible dangers around the campsite. No one wants a trip to A&E as part of their family holiday.
Bikes, scooters and other outdoor equipment can be very expensive. Make sure the contents cover that comes with your motorhome insurance protects such items.
When a site is busy an electrical hook-up could be serving several pitches all at the same time. And that’s a lot of cable! Cut down on the risk to you and others by making sure your cable is placed as close to the edge of your pitch as possible. Try to put any excess cable under your motorhome so it doesn’t become a trip hazard. That said, don't coil your excess cable when in use as it can overheat and catch fire.
Before you left home you no doubt checked your LPG system to make sure everything was secure. However, all that jostling during the road trip might have weakened connections and caused leaks and even fire hazards. Take the time to recheck the system now. Who knows what you might find!
Inappropriate disposal of hazardous waste
Unfortunately, not every campsite user will follow the rules. And sometimes people try to dispose of non-domestic waste where they shouldn’t. Keep an eye out for items such as broken glass and batteries, and inform site staff if you spot such waste.
Whether a lake, river or steam or even a swimming pool or hot tub, where there’s water, there’s danger. Particularly when younger children are concerned. Never let the idyllic surroundings lull you into a false sense of security.
So, there you have it: the 30 motorhome health and safety risks you really need to know about. Are you prepared for them? If not, take action today and make sure your motorhome insurance is up to date.