The loading dock’s importance to a company comes from its fulcrum role in the supply chain. When a facility’s dock is well-equipped and runs efficiently, goods can move smoothly to and from that location. The situation is very different, however, when there are safety problems and oversights on the loading dock.
A lack of equipment, inadequate training, or a building without needed design features could increase the chances of an accident on the loading dock. As heavily trafficked areas where large vehicles and equipment are constantly present, loading docks are some of the most dangerous and potentially deadly areas of warehouses and other facilities.
Meeting safety requirements around loading docks
Many individual considerations go into creating safe loading dock areas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated in a clarifying letter that its only regulations that are specifically designed for loading dock regulations regard the safe use of forklifts, employers are bound to provide environments that do not contain hazards likely to cause death or serious harm.
As Industrial Safety & Hygiene News notes, 25% of industrial accents occur on the dock. Risk factors beyond forklift operation errors include trailers creeping too close to the facility without correctly placed wheel chocks, along with carbon monoxide emissions building up and workers falling off the dock, especially when there are insufficient guardrails in place. Furthermore, employees working in a fatigued state may increase danger.
Equipping employees for loading dock safety
The following are a few tips to improve the safety of every employee on the loading dock, keeping the risk of industrial accidents to a minimum. These factors include everything from installing and maintaining essential safety equipment to keeping up with training and ensuring supervisors are enforcing best practices.
Start with an inspection
Determining the dangers facing workers in a particular dock environment means performing safety inspections and determining what makes the facility unique. Logging what types of equipment are in place, how those assets are used every day and the amount of traffic passing through a space will help leaders plan more detailed safety strategies.
Optimize the dock area and keep it clear
Docks should be equipped with railings and guards to make it more difficult for people or vehicles to slip off of edges. OSHA’s guide to safe forklift operation recommends painting dock edges to make sure they don’t blend into the background. Whether driving a vehicle or simply walking, employees benefit from features designed to prevent falls. OSHA also suggests keeping all lanes clear and clean – an unexpected item out of place could lead to a serious forklift crash.
Maintain essential equipment
Any piece of equipment that fails can cause serious harm to employees. This is especially pressing in the case of moving assets like forklifts or stationary dock lifts. Companies that wait for mechanical systems to break down before performing maintenance are leaving themselves open to extended downtime – and they may be inadequately prepared to stop preventable industrial accidents. This is why proactive maintenance on the dock is so important.
Train employees and instill best practices
Working on a loading dock requires specific material handling best practices from employees. The forklift recommendations tied to OSHA’s standard warn drivers to drive slowly, stay away from dock edges and ensure they know how their vehicles react, considering tail swing when driving. To meet requirements, operators should be trained in the use of these vehicles before ever getting behind the wheel. While using a forklift is one of the most glaring examples of the need for good safety practices, it is far from the only one – employees of all kinds should understand what to watch out for on the dock.
Preventing Costly Breakdowns in Processes
The many preventable accidents and injuries that occur on loading docks every year are hugely costly for companies. Even when there is no human cost and the only damage is to equipment, organizations will still experience budgetary losses. The loading dock’s essential role in the supply chain ensures that disruptions and bottlenecks in production and logistics are natural results of equipment failures and other accidents.
Facility operators who have not yet considered the best ways to keep their docks operating at peak efficiency should act quickly, especially if their overall maintenance and safety programs are reactive in nature, rather than proactive. Having regular inspection and repair procedures in place for all assets will help ensure their teams stay safe on the dock, and that the supply chain stays open for business.
The costs of becoming more proactive are offset by risk reduction, as a single accident can have massive repercussions for the organization. Taking loading dock safety precautions could have averted 70% of reported accidents around these areas, which demonstrates the potential value of being prepared. Lost employee time and productivity come with severe costs, as do repairs tied to undetected mechanical problems that turn into asset failures.
Reach out to Miner today to request a quote or find out more about how to best protect the people and property on and around your facility’s loading dock.