Proper training for everyone in the unloading process at loading docks is crucial to avoid the risk of serious injuries or fatalities during the process. Truck drivers need to be aware of their role in ensuring that the loading dock area is safe.
The facility safety officer is responsible for making sure that loading dock workers, including forklift operators, are properly trained to unload trucks safely. The safety officer is also responsible for the installation of loading dock safety equipment that meets or exceeds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) standards.
Additionally, the facility safety officer will notate areas – known as danger zones and safe zones – within the warehouse and around the loading dock area that are potentially unsafe or are safe while trucks are being unloaded. These will include spaces for pedestrian traffic.
While there are standard danger zones in warehouses and around loading docks that will be identified by the facility safety officer, it is important that truck drivers and loading dock workers be aware that the danger zone around each truck being unloaded will be different and specific to that truck. Therefore, everyone, including truck drivers, must be trained to evaluate and identify potential hazards and the area they cover (anywhere from 5-10 feet to 40-50 feet) to establish the danger zone associated with each truck being unloaded.
As part of their work duties, facility safety officers are tasked with training warehouse personnel and truck drivers on safety procedures for the facility and making sure they are followed by everyone. Truck drivers also have extensive training, which includes safe unloading practices, as part of their CDL (Commercial Driver's License) licensing process.
Class A CDL licenses require the most rigorous coursework – 160 hours – and all interstate and intrastate tractor-trailer drivers must successfully complete the coursework and a comprehensive test before they are given this license.
The first area of training for truck drivers in unloading their trucks is how to secure their trucks. If tarps, straps, or other load-security devices are used, the truck driver should have an established area where these can be safely removed so that they don't create a visual obstruction for forklift operators.
Truck drivers should never jump up and down off the truck to remove security devices because this can cause in trips, slips, and falls, which can result in injuries.
If straps are stuck in between materials, they should not be yanked out with force. One reason is that they can boomerang and hit the driver with significant force, causing injury. The second reason is that removing a stuck strap may cause some or all of the load to shift or fall, which could injure the driver.
Next, the truck should be secured at the loading dock. This means locking the brakes, turning off the engine, putting wheel chocks in place, and using mechanical, hydraulic, or electric vehicle restraints to safeguard against trailer creep and trailer walk during the unloading process.
All of this requires good communication between loading dock workers and truck drivers so that everyone is on the same page at all times. Training for truck drivers should include standard loading dock communication procedures and methodologies.
While trucks are being secured to loading docks, the loading docks should be clear of unnecessary personnel, and all forklift traffic should be suspended in that area. Forklift traffic and unloading should not begin until truck drivers are in a safe zone within the warehouse.
Truck drivers need to be trained on and directed to the warehouse's safe zones. Safe zones are areas away from the loading docks designated for pedestrian traffic and for drivers who are waiting for their trucks to be unloaded. Safe zones are demarcated by safety equipment such as rails, gates, and/or bright yellow lines.
Drivers should not be out of safe zones at any time while their trucks are being unloaded. If drivers are near their trucks while unloading happens, they are in danger of being injured or killed.
The most common type of forklift/truck driver accident happens when materials fall off the truck. If the driver is on one side of the truck and the forklift operator is on the other side, the forklift operator can't see the driver. If pieces of or entire loads of material fall off the truck, it will hit the driver, who may be gravely injured or even killed.
It's very important that truck drivers be properly trained for unloading their trucks so that they and loading dock personnel are safe while they are performing their jobs.
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