The importance of dock leveler maintenance
Of the many pieces that make up the warehouse experience, there’s one that might play a bigger role in your operation than some would imagine: the dock leveler.
Your dock levelers might not be the most noticeable piece of equipment, but they serve a critical function. As such, they need to be treated with the same level of care as your other equipment – something that can be easy to neglect. This means periodical maintenance on dock levelers is necessary to avoid long-term damage and to identify and address any issues early on.
Planned dock leveler maintenance confers a number of benefits on your warehouse, including:
1. A safer work environment
When a trailer is backed up to the loading dock, a gap is almost inevitable. Not many trucks will fit into the entrance perfectly, and trailers of different sizes and heights will meet the dock differently. To get everyone on even ground, warehouses are equipped with dock levelers.
These devices bridge the gap between trailer and warehouse floor, giving employees stable ground on which to transport goods. They can also be adjusted up or down according to the height of the trailer you’re loading into. Without dock levelers, loading and unloading goods would be difficult and, at times, dangerous. It’s not hard for the driver of a forklift to lose sight of the warehouse ledge; instances of workers driving off the edge, unfortunately, aren’t hard to come across.
Dock levelers are permanent fixtures in a warehouse. Accordingly, the springs, levers, gears and other components that comprise the leveler must be regularly inspected and maintained. For example, the mainsprings must be checked for tension, so that the leveler lip can fully extend to cover the gap between the warehouse and trailer floors. Similarly, the shock absorber that slows down the rate at which the lip falls must be reviewed to ensure it’s moving at a steady, optimal rate. By conducting regular reviews of critical equipment, managers ensure their facilities continue to provide workers with a safe environment.
2. An energy-efficient warehouse
You may not associate energy efficiency or climate control with your dock leveler. But consider this: Any entrance to your warehouse is also a potential exit for heat or air conditioning. And, since the dock leveler is a key fixture at one of your warehouse entrances, it can hinder your heating or cooling efforts if it’s not properly installed.
There are many types of dock levelers, and more modern systems can provide greater energy efficiency than traditional mechanical levelers. Witte Bros. Exchange Inc., a third party logistics company in Montana, explained that, by introducing new vertical dock leveler equipment to its facility, the company was able to achieve greater energy efficiency, Food Logistics reported. With this system, the overhead door seals can close flush with the warehouse floor, rather than the leveler.
“There is no air getting in and out because of that vertical leveler,” Charla Whalen-Mueller, director of marketing and recruitment at Witte Bros. Exchange Inc., explained.
Even though utilizing this type of leveler can improve energy efficiency initially, vertical levelers must be maintained to ensure they are continuing to provide these benefits. Regular maintenance plans, such as quarterly inspections, is one way to protect this investment.
3. OSHA-compliant fixtures
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s goal is worker safety. In the interest of keeping every employee across the U.S. safe, OSHA is subject to upgrade its rules and regulations about loading dock safety. Recently, the organization announced revised standards related to walking-working surfaces.
The announcement specified that anyone working on a dockboard must have a barrier that prevents vehicles from running off the ledge. A dockboard is defined as a device used to span the distance between two barges that is at most 4 feet above the next-lowest level and includes many devices including dock levelers.
The regulation applies to any dockboard put into use after Jan. 17, 2017, and can be waived if the employer can show that there is no danger of a vehicle running off a ledge. However, even if your dock leveler has been in use long before January 2017, it’s never a bad idea to upgrade your systems to match OSHA’s current guidelines.
Dock levelers are complex and important pieces of equipment that can easily be overlooked. They are, after all, designed to fit neatly back into the floor or doorway when not in use. However, neglecting to perform periodic maintenance can lead to a variety of negative consequences. To begin planned maintenance for your dock levelers, contact Miner Corp.