Stay Safe: 8 Tips to Ensure Loading Dock Safety
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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Loading docks are notoriously dangerous. Approximately 25% of all reported warehouse injuries occur on the loading dock, and for each accident, there are hundreds of near misses. The good news is that many accidents are preventable with proper safety protocols in place.
With recent macro shifts like the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate and omni-channel consumer demand, companies are feeling increasing pressure to speed up distribution. Thus, loading dock workers are expected to work at a break-neck pace to keep products moving in and out, which only adds to the danger. It is important to follow safety procedures, especially during peak seasons. As shipping volumes increase, there will be more traffic, more workers, and more room for error. Prepare your teams now to avoid costly mistakes.
What Is a Loading Dock, and Why Is It Dangerous?
A loading dock is defined as the main area where products are moved in and out of a facility. This area is particularly dangerous because of the use of heavy equipment and machinery such as forklifts, trucks, and trailers. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA estimates that forklifts and other powered industrial equipment cause approximately 35,000 injuries each year. In addition, inclement weather conditions, like rain and snow, can cause floors to become slippery and increase the risk of falling (Grainger)
Loading dock risk management is a complicated endeavor, and safety must be the number one priority. If somebody gets injured, it not only affects the individuals involved; it can also cause harm to your bottom line. Putting time and effort into accident prevention can ward off hefty OSHA fines, lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims, and costly interruptions to productivity (Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers).
8 Tips for Loading Dock Safety
- Mark floors with tape to identify where walking is off limits. A common hazard that occurs at loading docks is employees being hit by forklifts or other heavy machinery. Clearly marking on the floor where it is safe to walk will prevent unwanted injury.
- Use visual dock communication. The use of traditional red/green, stop/go “traffic lights” signal when it is safe for vehicles to enter and when it is necessary to stop. This is an effective way to communicate with drivers at the loading dock and ensure no accidents occur.
- Use locking devices on every truck that comes to the loading dock. Using a locking device on trucks ensures that the trailer will not separate from the dock accidentally. When separation occurs, it is more likely people can fall off the dock and injury can happen.
- Clean loading areas regularly. As mentioned above, a common hazard is slipping or tripping due to weather, spillage, or debris left on the floor. Cleaning the area on a regular schedule will decrease the amount of slips, trips, and falls.
- Put padding on the edges of sharp corners. When moving product from the truck into the facility, it is possible to run into uncovered sharp edges and cause injury. Place protective padding on edges and corners to easily prevent this.
- Secure loose product. Before moving product to or from the truck, check to be sure the product is secure. Smaller products can fall off and cause tripping; and if larger products are not secure, they can injure employees when lifting.
- Require proper documentation for handling heavy machinery. OSHA trained and authorized employees are the only people who can operate heavy machinery. This not only makes sure everybody is safe, but also abides by the law.
- Require that all workers are well-informed and follow loading dock safety rules. To make sure all employees are aware of risks, hazards, and best practices, require them to take a short course where they learn the appropriate protocols and guidelines for working on a loading dock.
With so much at stake, it is important to do everything you can to ensure safety at the loading dock. For additional information to help ensure loading dock compliance and safety:
- United States Department of Labor 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.176 Material Handling
- OSHA - Powered Industrial Trucks
- OSHA - Worker Safety Series