The loading dock at your facility is one of the most critical points of transfer, but it is also one of the most dangerous work zones. It’s here that your product moves from storage to the open road on its way to the consumer. It’s also where about one-quarter of all reported warehouse injuries occur, according to LoadDelivered.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration creates guidelines and rules that explain how to set up a safe working environment. Adhering to the applicable OSHA loading dock regulations, or going beyond what’s required, can lower the risk of accidents at your facility.

Here are three loading dock mistakes you may be making, and how to fix them:

1. Lack of sidewalls on your dockboards

One of the more recent changes to loading dock regulations involves taking preventive measures to lower the risk of vehicles driving off the edge of a dockboard. A dockboard may be a dock leveler, dock plate, bridge plate, or any other device used to span the gap between dock and vehicle surface, like a trailer bed. In OSHA’s updated definition, dockboards aren’t higher than 4 feet above the next lower surface, like the lot below, Modern Materials Handling explained.

Sidewalls or another barrier on your dockboards will meet the requirement. The rule applies only to those installed on or after Jan. 17, 2017, but it is still a good idea for any dockboards that are exempt to have preventive measures in place as well. OSHA does make one exception to the rule: If an employer can clearly demonstrate that there is no risk of injury involved, preventive measures aren’t necessary.

Whether your dockboards are compliant with the latest updates from OSHA, replacing outdated dock levelers can improve your facility’s efficiency and employee safety.

2. Missing the right barriers near the ledge

OSHA states that any open-sided floor or platform that’s 4 feet or higher must have a standard railing or other barrier to prevent falls. But even if your loading dock is shorter than this height, there are still injury risks when workers operate machinery or move large amounts of product. Installing either a fall protection barrier like a guardrail or a visual barrier like a bright yellow chain can clearly communicate to forklift drivers and other employees when they are nearing the ledge.

While OSHA’s rules clearly state that 4 feet is the minimum height for which a fall protection barrier is required, state requirements could be stricter, Safety & Health Magazine pointed out. Be sure you comply with not only federal regulations but also your state’s regulations too.

3. Not providing equipment to secure trucks

One of the most devastating types of accidents, and one of the most common, involves forklift drivers attempting to enter a parked truck, only to discover it’s not properly secured. The trailer could begin to roll forward, or, unbeknownst to the forklift driver, the operator of the trailer could pull away from the dock. The forklift would then drive off the ledge of the loading dock, resulting in severe injuries or even death.

Facility managers must do everything they can to prevent these accidents. According to 29 CFR 1910.178(k)(1), truck brakes must be set prior to powered industrial trucks entering the trailer. Wheel chocks must also be placed under rear wheels.

There are other options beyond wheel chocks that provide more security and satisfy regulators. Trailer restraints, for example, physically connect the trailer to the building. Some models are integrated into a visible light communication system, which literally gives forklift operators the green light to enter a truck or shines red when it is unsafe to proceed. Systems like these give workers undeniable affirmation of the conditions they are working in and can reduce injuries and accidents.

If your loading dock isn’t up to the latest standards, it may be time to devise a dock modernization plan. Reach out to Miner to arrange a safety inspection. Our service professionals will identify areas where you can improve, and suggest new equipment to make your loading dock a safer work environment.