If you’ve ever driven through a busy parking lot, you know what chaos looks like. While you troll the aisles looking for a place to park, hazards surround you. Distracted shoppers wander the road with their noses stuck in their phones. Cars back out of spots without looking. Shopping carts clog up parking spaces. And traffic jockeys for the right-of-way with no clear direction from signs or lights.
These conditions would be a nightmare on a loading dock. Yet, without proper engineering controls, a loading dock and a busy parking lot have much in common. So it’s no wonder 25% of all warehouse injuries take place on the loading dock. And for every accident, there are hundreds of close calls.
With trailer restraints, you can prevent these accidents. Smart hook trailer dock locks can save your company millions in time, money, and human misery.
Why Trailer Dock Locks Are So Important
Accidents are just that - bad things that happen when humans are working with the best of intentions. Of course, you want to keep everyone on the dock safe, but you also know that time is money for the company. Still, 94,750 forklift-related injuries are reported each year. OSHA found these accidents generated $135 million in immediate costs.
Trailer creep is a common cause of these accidents. Trailer creep occurs when a forklift loads or unloads an unsecured trailer. As the forklift moves from the dock to the trailer, the trailer slowly moves away from the dock. After a few trips, the trailer shifts enough that the forklift falls in the gap. The fall causes serious injury - if not death - for the operator and anyone nearby.
The solution is pretty simple - trailer dock locks. A dock lock keeps the trailer from creeping. No gap means no fall.
What To Look For in a Trailer Dock Lock
There are several types of trailer restraints out there. Each has its purpose, but the smart hook trailer dock lock is the most effective. These trailer restraint systems automatically hook the rear impact guard of a trailer. This secures it to the dock and prevents a dangerous gap from forming.
There are many models available, and not all are created equal. Here are a few of the features you want to look for when considering a trailer dock lock.
Loading docks are the lifeblood of your company. Without materials coming in and goods going out, many companies would be dead in the water. So you’ll want to look for a trailer restraint system that requires the least maintenance.
The NORDOCK SMART-HOOK AR-20K, for example, has replaced conventional failure points with a direct drive system. This makes for less maintenance, reduced downtime, and a lower lifetime cost of ownership.
Additionally, quality smart hook trailer dock locks have waterproof housings for sensitive components. IP66 or IP67 ratings are a good choice. They also store themselves above ground. This keeps the housing clear of debris. These features protect the trailer dock lock from extra maintenance in bad weather.
For a smart hook trailer dock lock to work, a trailer must back up into the lock. It has to withstand the impact of hundreds of rear impact guards.
You’ll want a trailer dock lock with an impact guard that can hold up to constant use. Likewise, look for a model that has an auto-reversing hook. The hook mechanism won’t get damaged by an incoming trailer. The Nordock lock uses these features. And they pair them with a resilient finish like dual zinc dichromate.
It goes without saying that your trailer dock lock should work. But there are degrees of functionality. Look for a model with a large rotating hook design and an upward bias mounting. These will ensure consistent contact with the impact guard to prevent slipping. Also, a quality trailer dock lock should be able to stop a restrained trailer from driving away.
There will still be some trailer movement as the forklift drives between trailer and dock. It won’t be enough to cause an issue with proper equipment like a dock leveler. But it can cause a condition known as trailer pinch. Trailer pinch occurs when the trailer moves back to the extreme allowance of the hook. This prevents the hook from releasing until the trailer backs up to release the pressure.
It isn’t difficult to fix, but it adds delay in a fast-paced environment. Look for a model, like the Nordock Vehicle Restraint, that uses a no-pinch system to prevent delays.
Think back to our parking lot example earlier. A lot of those issues could have been resolved with effective communication. Therefore, you should demand communication support in your trailer restraint system as well.
Look for models with clear labeling and operator instructions affixed to the control panel. Flashing green and red light systems help ensure everyone is on the same page. This way, loading and unloading only occur when it’s safe to proceed.
You’ll also want fail-safe features to ensure everyone’s safety even when things don’t go according to plan. For example, trailers don’t always arrive in pristine condition. So look for a trailer dock lock that has a fault alarm sensor. The alarm sounds when a trailer shows up with a damaged or missing rear impact guard. This tells your team the trailer needs to be secured a different way before unloading.
Finally, power failures are an unfortunate fact of life. The last thing you want is your loading dock shut down because you can’t unlock trailers from their dock locks. Look for a model that has a built-in battery reserve. A backup battery can keep your loading dock working when everything else shuts down.
Loading Dock Safety
Trailer creep is a significant contributor to the $135 million spent on preventable forklift accidents annually. Investing in a smart hook trailer dock lock is an effective way to protect your loading dock team.
There are, of course, other hazards that affect loading dock safety. Early departure, ineffective communication between drivers, and theft are just a few. To address them all, your best choice is to schedule a complete safety assessment.
To sign-up for your your loading dock safety assessment, reach out to one of our material handling consultants online or by phone:
San Francisco Bay - Livermore (510) 473-8151
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091
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