Vehicle Restraints and Fall-through Accidents

Vehicle Restraints and Fall-through Accidents feature image

A systems-based approach uses a standardised set of management steps that are sequential and may be applied to any major undertaking, that dictates that principal objectives, strategies and tactics are established to promote effective response management and consistency can improve workplace safety. However, a systematic approach that integrates a variety of products including automated equipment and sensors, can help you achieve your specific workplace safety goals. 

forklift fall through are fatal

Forklift fall-through are fatal

With the loading dock being responsible for producing a quarter of all warehouse injuries and the high-risk of hazards and serious accidents occurring from the loading and unloading of the semi-trailers, workplaces need to implement safety measures in this area.

Many forklift accidents are caused by Forklift fall-through which is one of the most dangerous types of incidents that occur at loading docks. It most often results from trailer creep or premature departure of the semi-trailer.

Vehicle restraints are designed to improve loading dock safety by keeping trailers connected to the dock as they’re being loaded or unloaded by forklifts. This helps prevent a dangerous gap from forming between the trailer and the dock, which can lead to a forklift fall-through incident.

As trailer creep or premature departure cause serious injury or death to the forklift driver and anyone nearby, it is therefore important to have a systematic safety strategy in place to help reduce potential accidents within the loading dock area.

best practices for loading docks

Best practices for loading docks

Best practices for loading docks
Prior to implementing a safety system here are four of the best practices for loading dock:

  • Restraining of the trailer – Industrial wheel chocks to automated vehicle restraints, are a variety of ways to secure a semi-trailer at your dock. An automatic vehicle restraint, which is often viewed as the most effective way to secure a trailer can help prevent theft, reduce contamination and improve the safety of dock workers
  • Communicating to drivers and forklift operators – Having a communication system that offers a quick visual read to drivers and workers will help ensure that everyone is operating safely together. Traditional vehicle restraint systems use a red or green light on the control box and outside the building to indicate restraint status. This is an important safety feature, but it has limitations.
  • Protecting open docks – Dock barrier systems and dock shelters can reduce the risks posed by an open dock. A dock barrier provides a visual cue that the loading dock is open, but a truck is not present. Look for a barrier that can interlock with a vehicle restraint, creating a sequence of operation that prohibits the barrier from being removed until a vehicle restraint is fully engaged.
  • Creating a smooth transition from floor to trailer bed – The forklift operator enters and exits a trailer via a leveller, and when this happens, he or she often experiences a series of jolts and joint shocks several times a day. It’s important to look for a vertical leveler that provides the smoothest path between the facility floor and the trailer. This helps reduce “dock shock” to forklift operators, and damage to product and equipment
engage a loading-dock safety-systems expert

Engage a loading-docks safety-systems expert

When the equipment and configuration options seem overwhelming, consider bringing in a loading-dock safety-systems expert to help you assess your operation and determine which options will work best for your situation.

Safety around loading docks and loading dock operations are key in the distribution industry. This includes warehouse safety, regulatory compliance, workplace accidents, and the loading docks expert will need to know the answers to the following questions: the types of trailers are coming to your loading dock; the current system for securing them; the current communication system and the dock currently secured.

With an understanding of your operations, the expert will be able to determine your risks and recommend improvements to both your equipment and process. 

Incorporating Interlocking vs. Interconnecting Systems

A loading dock safety strategy may incorporate one or all of the following elements:

  • Interlocking Systems — An interlocking system prevents the operation of equipment until certain conditions are met, e.g., an automatic vehicle restraint would not release a trailer until a loading dock barrier is put in place.
  • Interconnecting Systems — An interconnecting system allows a piece of equipment to operate only when another piece of equipment is activated first, e.g. when a button is pushed to activate a dock leveller, then a vehicle restraint engages.

It’ important to understand that compatibility is essential when determining the ideal system for the loading dock.

A systematic approach enhances the safety and security of workers

In most cases, a systematic approach that incorporates a variety of products and the proper chain of operation is the best way to secure a loading dock. These products working together as a system, enhances the safety and security of workers, while improving environmental control and supply chain integrity.

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