Winterize Your Loading Dock: Ensuring Safety in Cold Conditions

Your loading dock may be the most critical point in your warehouse, but it can also be the most dangerous. Winter weather conditions increase risk of injury by creating slippery conditions and reduced visibility. To prevent accidents and ensure warehouse safety, it’s essential to prepare your docks for the change in seasons and to train your employees on loading dock safety during winter.

Here are a few good places to begin your loading dock winterization:

Inspect your loading docks

First, check the seals. Your loading dock doors should be weather resistant to prevent snow, ice, sleet or slush from entering your facility. Precipitation can cause your doors to freeze, which increases the risk of damage. They can also make the floor of your warehouse wet, icy and slippery – a safety risk for employees on foot or behind the wheel of a forklift.

On this note, it’s not always the integrity of the door that causes slip hazards at loading dock entrances. Be sure your employees understand the importance of keeping the door closed; if it’s not in use, it should be shut.

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Be sure the drive to the loading dock is clear. Sometimes, this might mean using a truck with a plow to remove snow; other times, this might mean putting sand or salt on the ground to reduce slipperiness caused by ice. Make sure you have these winter essentials on hand and that they’re ready to be used.

Preventing trailer creep is an important focus any time of year, but ice and winds during winter pose a greater threat to standing trucks. Make sure you have reliable solutions in place to prevent trailer creep; wheel chocks aren’t enough. These can slip on ice and be otherwise moved under the right conditions. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have interwoven tactics to prevent trailer creep – multiple prevention measures will make your workplace safer for employees.

Invest in trailer restraints that will physically hold the trailer in place while employees move between the truck and the warehouse. The best models are those that hook onto the trailer’s rear impact guard.

Review visibility

Double-check the exterior lights at your loading zone, Industrial Supply Magazine recommended. Exterior lights should all be working and visible when in use. With the days getting shorter, your delivery drivers may be arriving before sunrise or after sundown. Additionally, blustery snow can decrease visibility during winter. In these cases, the lights outside your building and any signaling devices you use become critical guides for the drivers.

Prepare your loading docks for winter conditions. Winter weather can reduce visibility for your delivery truck drivers.
Prepare your loading docks for winter conditions. Winter weather can reduce visibility for your delivery truck drivers.

If you have lines painted on the pavement or other markers to direct vehicle and foot traffic, check that these are still visible. If the paint has faded or worn away over the summer, repaint them for the winter.

Prepare your lift trucks and other vehicles

At the onset of winter, you likely outfitted your personal car with snow tires, started using a winter blend in the gas tank and added antifreeze to the coolant system. Don’t neglect similar preparation of your lift trucks and other vehicles at your facility. Equipment World suggested using a washing fluid that contains antifreeze, switching to a winter fuel blend and reviewing the manufacturer’s viscosity and lube selection recommendations. If you know you need forklift maintenance, now is the time to call a service professional to assist.

You may also want to adopt a few new habits when using your lift trucks. Never leave them half-full at the end of the day; filling up their tanks will help prevent condensation in the tank, which can create problems for the engine. When you start up the truck in the morning, let it warm up a bit before you increase the speed. That said, don’t let the truck idle for too long; if the truck will be stationary for 10 minutes or more, turn it off to save fuel and give the engine a rest.