While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a specific list of musts for the preparation and maintenance of facility dock doors, the government agency does require companies to operate work environments where employees can perform their duties safely and without risk to their health.

Safety and health in the dock area are far from automatic. In fact, Industrial Safety and Hygiene News specifies that 25% of industrial accidents happen around the dock area, with 600 near-misses for every one incident that causes harm to people or damage to property.

OSHA awareness when it comes to dock doors and more general loading dock safety means getting ahead of the potential problems that can befall these assets or any of their components. Being proactive about the condition of assets is the key to creating a safer workplace with fewer disruptions.

What can happen to dock doors?

When dock doors become inoperable – whether due to accumulated wear and tear or a single destructive incident – the whole organization's supply chain can slow down, with resulting damage to the bottom line. Warehouses and distribution centers that can't work at full speed are liabilities, and require potentially costly reactive maintenance to return to full capability.

The equipment around dock doors, such as their springs and seals, may wear down over time, leading to failures that seem sudden but were the product of accumulated strain. Inspecting and repairing these elements proactively is therefore an important duty, though potentially one only suited to expert personnel. After all, performing work on commercial door springs when suspended 20 ft. in the air can prove highly difficult and dangerous without factory training and experience.

In addition to their mechanical components, today's doors are also paired with electronic control systems. These technological elements are worth inspecting and maintaining in their own right, as failures in wiring and connections could be just as harmful to the effective operation of a dock door as a more overt problem with springs or track.

What Is the Importance of Forklift Safety on the Loading Dock?

While wear and tear to door components can cause eventual failures, there are also incidents that damage otherwise-sound dock doors and call for an immediate response. Many such incidents of damage to commercial doors are caused by  another mainstay of the loading dock, the forklift. Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, do come with their own OSHA standard that determines who can drive these vehicles and how to use them.

Forklifts often cause damage to doors and many of the incidents are similar in their causes and consequences – a powered vehicle that gets too close to a door and strikes it is liable to cause serious damage to the lower panels of the door, or to other vital components such as the track.

Many of OSHA workplace safety tips for safe forklift operation are valuable as general ways to make a dock area safer for workers. For instance, the need to keep working surfaces clear of potential hazards and paint the edges of the dock for better visual warnings are simply common sense when it comes to operating a loading area.

Ensuring every forklift operated by a company is well-maintained, that the environment supports the safe use of these vehicles and that all operators have been trained and prepared to use the trucks is a way to protect not only doors and equipment but employees, too. Forklift accidents are a leading cause of injury and loss of life around the loading dock. A comprehensive safety strategy will encompass these priorities alongside more general asset inspections and maintenance.

What does proactive maintenance mean for loading dock doors?

Despite the lack of exact OSHA requirements to hold themselves to when dealing with dock door safety, companies can and should adopt a more proactive approach to maintenance and preparation to ensure they lose as little time and productivity as possible to breakdowns that leave the unable to open dock doors.

This typically entails a strategy in which expert service personnel check the hardware periodically, searching for potential warning signs before they become serious enough to cause failures. Components such as springs should receive this attention quarterly at a minimum. Each facility will have its own bespoke approach to inspections and maintenance based on its industry and objectives. For instance, a  company that must keep an unbroken cold chain needs to pay special attention to seals and environmental controls.

The dock is a contained environment within an industrial facility, and the equipment located in this area goes together – a proactive maintenance strategy should encompass assets such as lifts, levelers and dock safety gates alongside the commercial doors and door shelters themselves. Loading dock safety is a team effort, with supervisors also playing a pivotal role by ensuring their material handling teams are aware of the potential risks around them, as well as the part employees play in keeping one another safe.

High-quality proactive maintenance also comes with access to emergency support for when an incident such as a forklift collision causes inescapable damage to a dock door. When expert service professionals have access to the right techniques and equipment to quickly repair this damage – potentially even fabricating replacement door panels in the field – they can keep breaks in the supply chain to a minimum.

Having a knowledgeable and established partner organization on your side can help your company take such an approach to OSHA dock door safety. Contact Miner to learn what we can do for you.