Loading docks are dangerous. There are no two ways about it. They are notorious for being the location of almost 25% of all warehouse or factory-related incidents that are reported every year, not to mention the near misses due to wet floor, sagging wooden docks, falling equipment on the floor, and so on. Suffice to say that organisations must exercise due diligence in setting up solid safety mechanisms and policies so that accidents on the loading bays can be reduced to a bare minimum, if not avoided.
What is a loading dock?
The loading dock or loading bay is an area in a factory or warehouse where the loading and unloading of goods and equipment takes place. The primary machines involved in loading and unloading are forklifts, trucks, and trailers. The combination of the nature of the exercise itself and the presence of large machinery compromises the safety of the workers. In addition, factors like rain, snow, spillages, etc. further contribute to the risk of falling and injuries.
Managing risk on loading docks is a complicated exercise and while it is difficult to make loading docks 100% accident-free, companies can take several steps to make loading docks safer for workers. Here are 10 tips that managers can take a cue from, in their endeavour to achieve such an objective.
1. Use Scaffolds
In most warehouses, loading docks are small and when trucks queue up, use of truck ramps cramps the space available for unloading even more. This results in awkward angles for the workers and accidents can happen as a result. Scaffolds solve this problem by adding more space for better manoeuvring. Scaffold components can be increased or decreased depending upon the requirement and make the unloading easier and more sure-footed. Also, movement of forklifts through tight compact doors (especially auto-closing doors) increases the risk of their getting stuck in them or damaging them altogether. Installation of Overhead Door Safety Barriers takes care of this problem. Available with or without warning bars, they make for a perfect safety mechanism against any entry or exit mishaps.
2. Avoid Spillages
This one sounds obvious but surprisingly, most of the accidents are caused by spills of substances like oil, water, chemicals, and at times natural elements like rain and snow. Use sawdust on the floor to increase traction in case of spillages and provide skid-resistant boots to the workers.
3. Check the Health of the Flooring
If the floors are wooden, check them often for any stress, sagging, rot, or cracks. If there are signs of any wear and tear at certain locations, repair them. Similarly, if the flooring is concrete, it is prone to chipping and cracking due to the impact of the heavy machinery.
4. Pad Up the Sharp Edges and Corners
Management must ensure that all areas with sharp edges are properly padded to avoid injuries to workers when carrying material from the trucks to the warehouse. Corner Guards are helpful in protecting masonry columns and corners against impact damage. High traffic areas that are prone to potential damage from forklift activity or vehicle impact are best served by these corner guards that provide solid protection against structural damage.
5. Use Signage
Properly displayed and easy to understand signage helps a great deal in warning the employees of impending dangers. Instructions setting out things like the maximum permissible load, maximum height of the stacks, areas prohibited or out of bounds for heavy machinery, marking areas where it is safe to walk, and the use of red/green lights to regulate the movement of people and machinery help in educating the employees and staying out of harm’s way. Around the intersections or blind corners, visibility is a major issue. Use of Dome Mirrors at such intersections where people and material cross path help in preventing accidents. Due to their wide view angle, Dome Mirrors also prevent thefts and incidents of vandalism and unruly behaviour.
6. Training and Documentation
Every employee who works in the loading area must undergo compulsory training which should be documented and accessible to them at all times. Both the documentation and training should feature real-world scenarios and situations to help the workers understand the significance of following rules and policies. They should also be regularly subjected to tests and reviews to assess their knowledge of the guidelines, best practices, and protocols of working in a loading dock.
7. Secure the Machinery
Machinery must be parked at specified bays which should be equipped with some kind of locks to secure them. There have been several instances where careless parking and the accidental movement of trucks have led to mishaps of unimaginable proportions. The Australian government has specific regulations related to forklifts and loading docks. Products like Black Rubber Wheel Stop and Black Rubber Dock Bumper are specifically designed for loading docks to secure them at a place and also absorb impact from reversing trucks from damaging the adjoining structures, vehicles or material.
8. Lifting Belts and Other Accessories
Lower back injuries are very common among workers who do heavy lifting. Provide them lifting belts, train them on proper lifting techniques, and prescribe the maximum amount that a person can lift manually. Anything heavier than the prescribed limit must be done with machinery.
9. Use Security Cameras
Besides serving the obvious purpose of recording any theft or undesirable action, cameras can also help in recording situations of accidents and mishaps that could have been avoided. These recordings can be used to strengthen the training and educate the workforce on what not to do when working on the loading bay.
10. Embrace Latest Technology
Organisations that have the best safety record in the warehousing and loading bay operations constantly upgrade themselves in knowledge, training, and technology. They use the best training facilities and trainers available, develop the best documentation (and keep it updated too), and often change and improvise on their guidelines and processes. Keep an open mind and do not hesitate to change something that isn’t working.
After all, the success of your organisation depends on the safety, welfare, and well-being of your employees. Keeping them safe is not just your moral duty but also a legal obligation. With these tips and products from Verge, you should be able to strengthen your existing mechanisms and also introduce new ones with a singular aim: making loading docks safer for your workforce.
Verge Safety Barriers have been at the forefront of creating products that help create safety environments for the workforce in warehouses, factories, freight terminals, and production lines.
Call Verge Safety Barriers at 1800 765 539 for more information on our products.