Strategically Winterizing Your Loading Dock – What to Know

By Lacy Byrd, Sr. Director Operation, MINER

As the leaves fall and holidays approach, you’ll need to start preparing your loading docks for the winter season ahead. Snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet, wind and cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your facility’s operations, especially at the already accident-prone loading dock. Add the winter chill with its slippery ice and strong winds, and you’re facing unique obstacles both for your workers and your equipment.

Yet some of the winter headaches can be avoided with the right precautions. With a bit of foresight and action now, you can implement solutions to keep your workers safe, equipment functioning, and the facility running smoothly. Some wise decisions on the front end will help you to successfully prepare for the weather changes to come.

As you prepare for the coming months, these are a few of the most important steps you can take to winterize your loading dock and ensure safety is a top priority:

Schedule Preventative Maintenance. Having your PM program in place well in advance of the winter months ensures your equipment is properly maintained while steeply decreasing the likelihood of surprises like costly emergency repairs. Investing in your preventive maintenance now is wise spending as you prepare for the new year. By leveraging your budget with proactive updates you can avoid downtime, keep workers safe, and ensure your facility is running smoothly.

Remember your Dock Seals and Shelters. Properly used and maintained dock seals and shelters can prevent the cold from coming inside, improving your efficiency and lowering your power costs. A bit of heat loss is inevitable, but dock seals can make sure you’re not losing any more than necessary and keep your workers comfortable and safe. Remember that any snow or ice that enters your facility will melt and create a slip hazard. While loading dock seals are designed to close the small gaps between trucks and your facility, loading dock shelters are larger canopies that keep loading and unloading operations safe from the elements. This can be especially helpful during tough weather conditions but is useful at all times, promoting safety awareness among workers and guarding shipments against contamination. You can visibly inspect your existing seals and shelters for any gaps, or feel around to see if there is any cold air creeping in. If you notice either, it might be time for a replacement.

Ensure Trailer Restraints and Wheel Chocks are Working Together. While trailer restraints provide numerous safety factors, wheel chocks are also an important equipment asset, helping prevent any accidental movement and ensure trailers don’t roll away from the dock door. It’s important to consider both, because during the winter months, wheel chocks can get lost in the snow if you aren’t staying on top of things. You should check your chocks regularly for any visible signs of wear like cracks or chips that signal it’s time for a replacement. They also need to be visible, so employees don’t trip or slip and fall because they are buried in snow. Setting up your facility for success means ensuring both trailer restraints and wheel chocks are working properly together, ensuring you are providing a secure work environment, which is one of the most important safety measures according to OSHA.

Use a HVLS Fan. We all know heat rises, but you can push the heat you’re losing back down with a High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) fan. Through a process called destratification, warm and cool air are pushed together to create a balanced temperature throughout your facility. This is a relatively low-cost way to ensure your HVAC system isn’t working harder than it needs to. Working alone or in conjunction with heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units (HVAC), HVLS fans create better workspace environments. In addition to being energy-efficient, HVLS fans help with air quality control, protecting employees from illness, and reducing the carbon footprint. These fans provide year-round benefits, for heating, and cooling needs, depending on what climate you live in.

With a future-minded perspective and a commitment to action now, you can set up your team and your facility for a successful winter season. Through these tips you can avoid some of the major culprits for downtime and safety issues, meaning satisfied workers and a facility running according to plan. A little effort on the front-end can help you find a number of benefits while spending wisely and ensuring you’re prepared for the year ahead.