A loading dock is a fast-paced and dangerous environment. Around 25% of all reported warehouse injuries occur on loading docks. Hundreds of near-misses precede each hazard. Forklift accidents cost employers an average of $48,000 per injury and $1,390,000 per death, according to the National Safety Council.
As a manager, putting safety first should be your top priority. In this article, we will cover four common and often overlooked signs of a hazardous loading dock.
Sign 1: You didn’t invest in proper loading and unloading equipment
Dangerous loading dock separation accidents manifest in different ways. If a forklift loads and unloads an unsecured trailer, the truck will slowly move away from the dock. This hazardous situation is often referred to as “trailer creep". And in an even more dangerous situation, a truck driver’s premature departure can be fatal if a forklift driver isn’t finished with the loading process.
Both situations create a dangerous gap between the trailer and the loading dock that forklifts can fall into. Unless you have preventative equipment in place, these scenarios are hard to avoid.
What can you do?
- Take advantage of loading dock technology. Vehicle restraints and dock levelers bridge the dangerous gap between the trailer and the dock.
- Check the load capacity of the dock board or leveler and account for the weight of the load, a forklift, and an employee who is moving the load.
- Check the equipment for signs of wear, corrosion or material failure.
- Position the dock board or plate with at least 8 inches of overlap on each end.
- Have a certified specialist must inspect hydraulic dock plates at least once a year.
- Paint the edges of the plate and consider a lip to prevent forklifts and people from falling from it.
Sign 2: Pedestrians are close to an active loading area
Pedestrians are the primary victims in loading dock accidents . Danger lurks inside and outside the loading area . Truck drivers often lack visibility while forklifts are loading and unloading trailers. Your personnel may lack proper training on how and when to move around the loading dock area As a facilities manager, it's your responsibility to put preventative measures in place.
What can you do?
- Ensure that workers have had proper pedestrian training that occurs every 6-12 months.
- Use correctly displayed and easy to understand signage. Mark the areas where it is safe to walk and ensure they are lit.
- Direct pedestrians to walk along the side of the aisle or marked walkways. Direct forklifts to only use designated aisle ways.
- Invest in a light communication system. Use red and green lights to regulate the movement of staff and machinery.
- Use corner mirrors, curved ceiling mirrors, or a trained signal person in areas with low visibility, such as corners and doorways.
- For vehicles that are backing up, have a signal person standing to the side of the vehicle to direct the driver.
- Stress the importance of visual contact for vehicle drivers and forklift operators.
Sign 3: You don’t check the health of the flooring regularly for spillage damage
Damaged floors or spills like oil, water, chemicals, rain, and snow cause many forklift and personnel accidents. Concrete floors are prone to chipping and cracking due to the impact of heavy machinery.
What can you do?
- Repair any damage done to the floor in the loading dock.
- Check the floors in the loading docks on a regular basis.
- Keep floors, dock levelers and dock boards dry at all times, immediately cleaning up any spills from rain, snow, ice or equipment fluids.
- If you can't clean up immediately, use sawdust on the floor to increase traction for the workers.
Sign 4: You don’t use any equipment to prevent theft and contamination
A loading dock manager with safety in mind is looking for proactive methods to protect the dock against theft and contamination. These two common mistakes can be easily prevented with some preparation.
Cargo theft happens daily - full trailers are emptied unnoticed, even from places we think are a secure location, like a loading dock. The FBI estimates that $30 billion worth of cargo is stolen each year. Contamination occurs due to broken seals in a non-climate-controlled environment. An open door exposes the inventory to external influence and fluctuating temperatures.
What can you do?
- Use a vehicle restraint to secure a trailer or truck at your dock to prevent theft and cut contamination.
- Bridge the gap between the trailer bed and the loading dock floor with a vertical dock leveler. This will help you maintain temperature and humidity while controlling the truck’s inventory.
- Consult with an expert about a system of automatic vehicle restraints, dock seals or shelters, and vertical dock levelers.
A Strategy for Safety
Preventable loading dock hazards cause lost profits and damage your reputation. They leave you with both short-term challenges and long-term security plans to put in place. A one-off ad hoc solution is unlikely going to address all potential hazards. A systematic combination of safety equipment, management steps, and staff training can help.
To systematically step up your loading dock safety, read our free Loading Dock Safety Guide and leave no chance to a hazard.
You may have considered safety improvements at your loading dock, but getting started may be intimidating. We can help you put your loading dock safety first. Schedule a no-commitment safety assessment to mitigate risks without compromising your loading dock efficiency. We'll suggest at least three ways to future-proof your loading dock and answer any questions. Expect the right combination of security devices, facility rearrangements, and personnel training.
Please contact us online with any questions about your loading dock safety, or by phone:
San Francisco East Bay - Livermore (510) 379-5210
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091