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Loading Dock Safety

Filed under: Safety

As the main point of transport access for receiving stock and shipping goods, loading docks are an integral part of most warehouses. Forklifts, trucks and pedestrians travel through this space, making loading docks an extremely busy transport hub. Due to the high amount of traffic, in and around loading docks, it is essential that warehouse managers plan and enforce safety measures in order to provide optimal safety for all employees as well as minimise the risk of accidents. A well-planned and designed loading dock can minimise damage to goods, increase productivity and most importantly ensure employee safety.

This blog will examine significant causes of loading dock accidents and will provide simple suggestions to overcome them. We will also cover how employers can create a safer loading dock environment. 

loading dock

How can employers create a safer loading dock environment and minimise risk?

The Occupational Safety and Health regulations (1996) state that employers must be able to identify each hazard that a person in the workplace could be exposed to, assess the risk to a person resulting from the hazard and consider any ways in which this hazard can be minimised. 

1. Identify the risks:

Employers need to identify potential risks and causes of an accident within the loading dock area. Identifying these risks ensures employers are able to implement safety regulations that minimise the risk of accidents occurring. Examples of risks include:

• Slippery floors and surfaces
• Injuries as a result of lifting loads of pallets/Incorrect handling of equipment
• Unexpected trailer movement
• Trailer creep
• Collisions as a result of poor visibility
• Pileup of pallets, trash or other materials blocking the drivers view

2. Assess the associated risk:

Secondly, employers need to assess each associated risk, taking into account environmental circumstances and estimate the probability of this risk becoming reality.
When identifying these risks one must:

• Gather as much information as possible about the potential risk they have identified.
• Assess the number of employees that would be vulnerable to this risk. 
• Determine possible consequences of this risk (could it lead to serious injury or be fatal)
• Rate the likelihood of the risk occurring e.g. ‘very likely’ to ‘highly unlikely’. 

Employers should take into consideration the number of forklifts used around the loading dock, the environmental conditions of the loading dock and whether or not pedestrians use the loading dock area.

3. Control the risk:

If a risk is likely to occur, steps need to be in place to eliminate the hazard. For example if weather is a likely risk, such as rain and slippery floors, try moving the loading dock undercover. Employers also need to minimise any risk of that danger occurring, for example:

• Repair any uneven floor surfaces
• Replace any damage or worn down equipment or loading dock bumpers
• Turn trucks off whilst in the loading dock to prevent employees from being exposed to too much carbon monoxide
• Provide all docks and forklifts with lights to improve employee visibility
• Implement ICC Bar type restraints which automatically connect the rear impact guard onto the trailer when it backs into the loading dock
• Implement wheel restraints for trucks to prevent them from moving forwards whilst loading/unloading
• Use signs to warn employees of risks

loading dock 2

There are many common hazards that can occur in loading dock areas, some of which are applicable to the whole warehouse. Employers must take responsibility to minimise these risks. If you are concerned about the safety in your warehouse or loading dock there is always the option in getting a professional to thoroughly assess your workplace and current policies and procedures.


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