Loading Dock Safety

Loading docks can be very hazardous areas within any industrial work environment. If you think about it, loading docks are essentially the moving traffic source within a facility. Loading docks often serve as two-way transmission points since these areas are able to accept deliveries and but also send out products or goods as well. During the exchange from truck to facility, or facility to truck there are often many employees involved. In order to enhance efficiency, employees often utilize the assistance of forklifts to lift and transport heavy items. However, forklifts pose their own safety hazards as well. One of the best ways to help ensure loading dock safety is to make sure all employees are trained based upon the safe practices and rules of the loading dock procedures.

Loading dock safety checklist

There are many different safety hazards within loading dock areas. Although there are many risks, some common safety hazards are as follows:

  • Slips, trips and falls: Many times loading areas start out clean and uncluttered. However, during the unloading or loading process the loading dock can become a congested area flooded with employees, forklifts, and products. It is important to keep the loading dock as clear and open as possible. Pallets or products should be moved quickly and efficiently and should not be placed in the middle of walking paths or in forklift moving zones.
  • Trailer Creep: Trailer creep occurs when the trailer starts moving slowly away from the loading dock. This happens when transport vehicles such as forklifts enter and exit the trailer and lateral and vertical forces cause a shift in the trailer’s position. This is dangerous because employees or forklifts can become injured by the increasing gap between the loading dock and trailer. One way to combat this hazard is with the use of wheel chocks. Wheel chocks are wedges that are placed in front of the rear wheels to keep the trailer from shifting away from the dock.
  • Forklift Usage: There are usually two main concerns with the use of forklifts on the loading dock, they are the risk of overturn and the possibility of forklifts running into employees and causing injury. Forklift drivers need to be trained and utilize caution when working within the confines of a loading dock.
  • Lifting Injuries: Many times the items being transported from trailer to facility or facility to trailer are heavy and require the use of motorized lifting equipment such as a forklift. However, there is a risk for lifting injuries when people try to manually lift heavy items. Employees should be trained on appropriate lifting techniques as well as when not to lift heavy items so the potential for lifting injuries is minimized.

How to Make Loading Docks Safer for Everyone

OSHA provides some very helpful safety standards that aim to protect employees from hazards on loading docks. The OSHA 29 CFR 1910.176 Material Handling provides up-to-date safety standards regarding loading dock safety. However, the use of a safety checklist may also help to ensure a safer loading dock. Some items on the safety checklist may include: confirming that wheel chocks are used, making sure areas are clean of debris, allowing only OSHA trained employees to operate forklifts, etc.

When it comes to safety on the loading dock, nothing should be overlooked. There are numerous hazards present and it is important to make sure that employees are aware of hazards and trained in how to avoid them. With hazard awareness and proper training, loading docks can be safer working environments for all employees.

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