Top Ten Shipping Dock Safety Tips

Tips to Improve Shipping Dock Safety!

While there are many dangers present in most facilities, few locations have as many different hazards as the common shipping or loading dock. If you take a step back and watch the activity in these areas you’ll see that everything is in a constant state of motion, and it is almost impossible to predict what will happen next.

This is why it is so important for all facilities to do everything they can to help reduce all potential hazards in this area. With a little effort, you will likely be able to dramatically reduce the number of accidents and injuries, which will help ensure things continue to run smoothly.

Look at these ‘Top Ten Shipping Dock Safety Tips’ and consider where you may be able to improve in your facility.

#1 – Cleanliness

They say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and whether that is true or not, it can’t be disputed that a clean shipping dock is essential for safety. This can be an especially difficult part of the facility to keep clean, however, since it is located right at the entrance to the outside. In addition, trucks are constantly moving in and out of the area to load and unload inventory.

With some planning and effort, however, you can come up with a system that allows this area to stay clean and organized at all times. This will help to improve safety by improving people’s ability to see where they are going, removing tripping hazards, and generally making it easier to move around the area.

#2 – Prevent Slippery Floors

Slip and fall accidents are a major problem in almost every area of any facility, but nowhere is this more true than the loading dock. In the winter or anytime it is raining, the area can get quite wet and slick. Combine this with the oil and grease from trucks and other equipment and you have a major recipe for disaster.

While keeping the area clean will help, it isn’t enough to keep the floors from becoming a hazard. To do this, you should install flooring that maintains its grip no matter what is on it. There are many different types of safety flooring, so find the ones that will work best in your facility and get them installed right away.

#3 – Fall Protection

In most shipping docks, large trucks pull up to the loading and unloading area so people can begin handling the inventory they are carrying. Since these trucks are often quite high off the ground, the shipping dock normally has a 4-6 foot drop of area. While this is not a life threatening height, it is definitely high enough to cause serious injury if people take a wrong step.

It is especially hazardous because people will often be carrying large items or working with machinery that obstructs their vision. With this in mind, there should be proper railings, doors, toe rails or other items in place to help prevent people from falling while working in the area.

#4 – Physical Security

No matter what type of facility you are operating, you will have many valuable items coming in and out of the loading docks on a daily basis. Wherever there are high value items, immoral people will be tempted to make a quick buck by stealing them. Whether this is an employee who is stealing small items on a regular basis, or a more serious criminal who is attempting to take tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of inventory, you need to do all you can to protect the facility.

The shipping dock is typically the leased secured location, because people and trucks are going in and out all the time. Installing security cameras, making sure the dock doors are secured, and adding security guards if necessary can help to prevent theft and other hazards in the area.

#5 – Training

Providing exceptional employee training is one of those things that can help improve safety in every part of the facility. Taking the time to ensure new employees not only know how to do their job, but also know how to do it safely is absolutely essential for anyone who will be working on or around the shipping dock.

Of course, employee training isn’t just for people who are new to the facility. You should be providing regularly scheduled training sessions to help ensure people stay up to date with changes and remain focused on working in a safe and efficient way.

#6 – Clear Traffic Instructions

While technically just outside the shipping dock, taking steps to ensure truck drivers and those who are driving facility vehicles like semi-trucks, hi-lows or fork lifts know where they are going is absolutely essential. This is typically done by placing traditional traffic markings on the ground outside of the facility so everyone knows where they should be driving.

In addition, make sure any blind corners or other areas where visibility is obstructed is marked with a stop sign so drivers don’t get into an accident. If you have more than one dock in your facility, make sure you are using signs or labels to identify the different docks so the drivers know exactly which one they are going to.

#7 – Immediate Labeling of Hazardous Materials

If your facility has any type of hazardous materials coming into the facility, you need to make sure they are labeled immediately. This can be done by purchasing a LabelTac Industrial Label Printer so that the dock employees can create the specific label that is required and apply it to the shipping container or barrel when it arrives.

This is commonly done for containers of chemicals that are to be used somewhere in the facility. Taking the time to have them labeled before they are brought into the facility will help to prevent accidents. For some chemicals, this may even be required by OSHA or other regulations so this is an extremely important safety tip.

#8 – Floor Markings

In most facilities the shipping dock is a fairly small area that has many people who work in it throughout the day. In addition, there are often people who just come into the area when they have a specific shipment arriving, so they aren’t as familiar with the way the dock is run. To make it worse, people in this area are usually operating equipment (hi-lows, fork lifts, dollies, ect) or carrying things in their arms, making it difficult to see. This all adds up to the potential of people bumping into each other or tripping over different items.

To help minimize this risk, make sure you have an effective floor marking strategy in place. Clearly identifying walking paths, for example, can help ensure people are safer. Take a step further by putting SafetyTac Arrows on the floor so everyone knows which direction they should be traveling. You can use floor marking tape (which you can find here) for an easy to see and long lasting safety improvement in this area.

#9 – Lifting Safely

Due to the fact that people normally want to get trucks loaded or unloaded quickly, many employees won’t be taking proper precautions to lift each item properly. The facility should provide things like lifting straps, weight belts, dollies and other things to help ensure people aren’t getting injured.

Improper lifting techniques can lead to serious back injuries as well as dropped inventory, which can cause further safety problems. In addition to providing employees with the tools and equipment necessary for safe lifting, you should also provide them with good training on how to lift heavy items, and how to determine when it is necessary for more than one person to help with the lifting.

#10 – Listen to Employees

The last, though certainly not least, safety tip is to listen to the employees who are working on the shipping dock on a regular basis. They will be the first people to notice when there is a safety concern, and they may also be the best people to come up with solutions.

It is not enough to just be open to them coming to you, however. You also need to reach out to them and ask for their thoughts on the matter. Holding annual surveys or even just going out and talking to them individually once in a while can help you to identify safety concerns so steps can be taken to fix them.

Shipping Dock safety IS Facility Safety

The shipping dock is one of the busiest and most hazardous areas in the facility. Any safety problems that exist here can cause safety issues in other parts of the facility. With this in mind, you should take hazard prevention very seriously. By investing in safety measures on this one area of the facility, you will be showing just how seriously the facility takes its safety precautions to every other area.

For more information on shipping dock safety, check out OSHA’s Loading and Unloading Assistance page. 

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