Loading docks are one of the busiest places in any warehouse operation. The American Supply Association reports that 25% of all industrial accidents occur at the loading dock. Many of these accidents can occur while loading and unloading a trailer. Here are some general safety considerations that should not be overlooked when creating a culture of safety on loading docks when unloading trailers.
Clutter – Empty pallets, packing materials and other debris might be trip hazards for workers or cause slippage for your material handling equipment or become entrapped in, under, or around your material handling equipment. For pedestrians and operators alike, this is a point of concern as loading docks have a great deal of traffic including forklifts, warehouse equipment, and pedestrians.
One fundamental practice we use in Toyota facilities is that everything has a place or a home, and everything is put in its place or home. This practice has been effective in eliminating loading dock clutter. All employees know where "home" is for materials so tripping hazards don't pile up.
Slick Surfaces – Rain, sleet, snow and spills are some of the contributing factors that may lead to slick surfaces in or around a loading dock. This can cause a slip hazard for both pedestrians and material handling equipment unloading a trailer.
To minimize this risk, keep all surfaces on and surrounding your dock dry. Sweeping, mopping and use of floor fans or dryers can help maintain dry working surfaces. In the case of a spill, workers and operators should be trained on the proper steps to make sure that the spill is cleaned up and disposed of safety and appropriately.
Trailer Creep – Trailers can move substantially under the weight of a forklift driving back and forth between the trailer and dock. This is known as trailer creep and it's a serious safety hazard.
Use of dock levers to bridge the gap between the trailer and loading dock, wheel chocks to prevent tractor and trailer wheel movement, and automatic trailer restraints are all ways to address this potential hazard. Once again, workers and forklift operators should receive safety training that includes the appropriate way to secure trailers at your facility.
Premature Departure – Trucks driving away before a trailer is fully unloaded is a serious concern. To minimize the potential of this occurring, clear communication between truck drivers, forklift operators, and dock managers is needed and should be a part of your safety training.