Loading docks are busy areas full of trucks, trailers, pedestrians, forklifts, and a host of other lifting devices and equipment. This makes it a prime area for serious and even fatal injuries to occur. There are various hazards throughout the area such as unsecured vehicles moving unexpectedly, lift trucks falling over due to careless loading or improper use, collisions between vehicles or with pedestrians, and falling loads. The most common causes of injuries in loading docks are:
- Improper loading or unloading procedures such as driver pull-away, load run-away, and trailer creep
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Lack of pedestrian awareness
- Forklifts and other lifting devices
- Stacking loads
- Housekeeping problems
- Vehicle traffic
Workers who witness unsafe procedures or have other safety concerns should report all issues to their supervisors promptly. Supervisors are responsible for identifying present and potential safety hazards within the loading dock area as well as developing, documenting, and implementing safe work procedures. This includes inspections and all precautions implemented to control these hazards. They are also responsible for making sure their workers are provided with all necessary personal protective equipment, training, and tools in order to safely follow work procedures.
Workers are responsible for their participation in safety training as well as reporting health and safety concerns, unsafe practices, and damaged equipment promptly, using equipment only as intended, and following all safety procedures. They may also be requested to assist supervisors in the development of such procedures.
- Use vehicle restraints
When loading or unloading your vehicle, always shut off the engine and make proper use of all available vehicle restraints. There are many different kinds of vehicle restraint devices, but wheel chocks must be used as a minimum to prevent the vehicle from shifted and moving.
- Check load capacity of dock plates
Before using and dock plates, check for signs of wear. Corrosion or a failure of welds can cause serious injuries. Also be sure to check that it will support the combined weight of your cargo, any lifting device being used, and the person moving it.
- Only use dock plates as intended
Dock plates should always be positioned so that they have a minimum overlap of 8 inches at each end. Make sure it is properly secured before use: dock plates should be flush with the surface below in order to minimize movement and wear.
- Be aware of trailer creep
The repeated forces of loading or unloading a trailer can cause it to shift slowly over time, increasing risk of injury. To prevent this, check restraints and wheel chocks periodically and correct as necessary.
- Use personal protective equipment
Always use the appropriate personal protective equipment for the job at hand. This equipment should be in good condition and well-fitted, and may include safety shoes, gloves, hard hats, or eye protection.
- Do not block exits
Be sure to never block any emergency equipment with your truck, even if you think it will only be for a few moments. Fire exits, extinguishers, and sprinklers; first aid kits; and eye wash stations must be accessible at all times.
- Watch for pedestrians
Whenever operating your vehicle, watch carefully for distracted pedestrians and drive carefully.