Loading docks are a key part of a facility’s infrastructure, especially for warehouses, manufacturing plants, industrial buildings, and distribution centers. The loading dock is a critical center for movement of materials, equipment, and products in and out of the facility. However, these areas often present serious safety concerns for employees.
Severe injury accidents or even deaths can occur at busy loading docks if proper safety precautions are not taken. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Safety Council report that twenty-five percent of all industrial accidents happen at loading docks. Workers need to pay particular attention to what they are doing and always be aware of other employees that are present, especially during the operation of forklifts and other types of equipment.
While safety should always be a top priority for any company, facilities with loading docks should have specific safety rules and regulations in place for workers. Taking precautionary measures to prevent employee injuries will not only create a safer working environment but will also reduce costs for the company in the long run.
Significant safety concerns include the amount of traffic and congestion, uneven flooring surfaces, inadequate lighting, and safety issues with vehicles and machinery such as trucks, rolling conveyers, doors, and lifting devices. Serious injuries caused by unsafe working conditions are slips and falls, lifting injuries, workers being pinned or struck by vehicles or equipment, or workers being struck by falling loads.
Loading dock employees should make sure to keep the space clear of hazards at all times to protect themselves and others. The loading dock area should also be routinely inspected by the company’s health and safety representative or safety committee.
These are five keys to loading dock safety that should be addressed:
- The Design of Loading Dock
- The loading dock should be designed to allow safe entry and exit of any trucks and vehicles.
- The routes around the loading area should be clearly marked for pedestrian traffic.
- Reduce uneven surfaces between the dock plate, loading area, and trailer to prevent accidents.
- Provide adequate lighting in the docking area.
- Dumpsters should be in a controlled area away from any traffic.
- Dock levelers should be appropriate for the weight and volume of the product that is being lifted.
- The Condition of the Floors
- Clean up and throw away any trash immediately.
- Dispose of any packaging materials such as cardboard, pallets, or plastic.
- Place wet, oily rags or other combustible materials in closed containers.
- Clean up any spills right away (especially chemical spills).
- Watch out for water or melting ice on ramps or flooring area.
- Immediately repair any damage to flooring that is reported by workers during inspections.
- Securing and Positioning Loading Dock Vehicles
- Personnel should not be in the trailer as a forklift enters or exits during loading or unloading.
- The trailer should be stabilized; otherwise, it can tip and injure workers. Adjust trailer wheels for balance and use a jack stand.
- Use dock safety devices all the time.
- Any equipment, such as a chock, should be used to anchor and prevent the trailer from moving around. A moving trailer can cause loads to shift that could injure workers.
- Loading and Unloading Boxes and Goods
- Workers should adhere to proper lifting techniques when loading and unloading boxes as well as heavy loads to prevent injuries.
- Workers should use marked areas when walking through the area.
- Congestion should be reduced in the loading dock area
- Any unauthorized persons or visitors should not be permitted in the loading dock area.
- Any traffic such as forklifts should not enter these areas.
- Make sure that employees have been trained to use forklifts.
- Ensure that dock plates have the proper stability, capacity, and placement
- Physical barriers like dock safety gates should be used at the edge of the dock and on lifting equipment to prevent falls.
- Place padding or guards around dock barricades and sharp corners to protect people from falling off the dock edges.
- Label and install safety guards on conveyors, on sprockets, gears, rollers, and other pinch points to minimize chances of injury to your workers.
- Cut down the amount of the vehicle exhaust by limit turning of engines and idling when the truck is being loaded or unloaded.\
- Regular and Preventive Maintenance
- Service the machinery and equipment on loading docks. Set up inspections and maintenance on a regular basis.
- Set up and maintain a safety program and safety procedures for workers. Train them on preventing hazards in the loading dock. Make sure that they are familiar with OSHA standards.
- Encourage workers to communicate if there are issues or safety problems that need to be addressed.
- Check dock seals and shelters on a regular basis to look for leaks.
- Minimize any worker exposure to exhaust and temperature extremes.
- Keep the docking area clean, organized and well maintained.
Important Loading Dock Equipment Safety Tips
Wheel chocks – Wheel chocks need to be secured with adequate slack, to the building or a solid structure.
Modified docks - Some facilities may need to modify or install docks so that the truck angles down toward the building, which reduces the need to rely on chocks.
Trailer Boxes - Trailer boxes should have a suitable level of lighting most often achieved by articulating lighting fixtures that are mounted inside the building.
Bumpers and Cushions - Bumpers should be mounted and secured on the outside of the building. If these are not in place, there is a risk of structural or other damage to the building.
Dock Boards - Dock boards (also known as bridge plates) should be used to span the space between the truck floor and the wall. Portable dock boards should be anchored or equipped with vertical dividers that prevent slips.
Dock Bay - OSHA standards require platforms four feet or more above adjacent floor or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing. Stanchions and chains need to be installed to keep workers from falling.
Contact Us Today
PartsBrite.com specializes in providing the highest-quality aftermarket loading dock parts. We provide companies with loading docks the parts designed to meet your specific needs. Our sales office is in Southern California, but we ship from warehouses in California and Wisconsin to provide parts to companies located throughout the United States. Contact us at 1-855-PARTSBRITE (1-855-727-8727).