We see hazards every day in our personal lives – the texting driver, the kid running across the street, the unsecured cargo in the back of a pickup. But do we see the hazards at our warehouse? Or have we gotten so used to things just working that we don’t see the dangers they pose if they don’t?
About 25% of all industrial accidents happen at the loading dock. For each reported accident there are as many as 600 near misses…that’s a scary number. Forklifts, pedestrians, debris and other hazards, faulty equipment, human error, and countless other reasons are to blame. Many of these can be avoided by developing and enforcing clear and comprehensive safety practices, providing top-notch employee safety training, and repairing or replacing old or faulty loading dock equipment.
As we visit our clients the most common hazards we see are:
1. No truck restraints or wheel chocks at all loading docks
Lack of truck restraints, be it wheel chocks or mechanical restraints, can cause a multitude of very serious problems; trailer creep being the biggest and scariest of them. Trailer creep is when the trailer of the truck “creeps” away from the dock. This can cause separation between the dock lip and the trailer itself. Once that separation gets big enough the weight and constant back and forth motion of the forklift could cause the lip to fall down or break, taking the forklift and the driver with it. This could result in serious injury or death and major equipment damage.
Impatient drivers or unclear communication between drivers and dock workers can cause early truck departure – resulting in the same situation or worse.
Wheel chocks can certainly help but are not always the best choice. They have drawbacks that can make them an unreliable means of securing a trailer in your dock. But they are better than nothing. If you are using wheel chocks only, make sure to train your staff on how to properly use them and how to safely and effectively communicate with your truck drivers. You also need to have a process in place for inspecting your chocks and assessing their condition so you know when its time to replace them. Broken, missing, or misused wheel chocks are as bad as not having any at all.
Check out the articles below for some basic information and facts on loading dock safety and the crucial role that vehicle restraints can play.
Prevent Trailer / Dock Separation Incidents (MH&L)
Stay Safe: 8 Tips to Ensure Loading Dock Safety (Load Delivered)
5 Loading Dock Catastrophes (and How to Prevent Them) (safeopedia)
2. Missing or improper entrapment devices on doors
As the name states these devices prevent someone from becoming entrapped under your door. Overhead door systems are frequently overlooked as safety hazards, even in companies with excellent safety programs. Quite simply, if they are working, we kind of forget about them. Commercial doors are heavy, many hang high in the air, and in the interest of efficiency can operate quickly. Besides being an OSHA safety violation, missing or improper entrapment devices is an opportunity for a serious accident to occur. A person or even a forklift can easily get trapped under a door that isn’t set up correctly to prevent entrapment.
There are different options and different devices that can prevent this from happening, depending on how your facility and equipment are set up and used. The proper entrapment devices can save thousands in equipment damage and prevent a serious injury from happening.
3. Missing fall protection
This is a commonly overlooked safety component because we usually don’t see the docks empty and the doors open. But what about those beautiful spring & summer days when you open the doors to let a nice breeze in. What protects your employees and equipment then?
While it may be a simple thing to ignore, OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.23(b) relating to protection for wall openings and holes requires fall protection for openings where there is a drop of 48″ or more. We recommend fall protection wherever you have an opening that a forklift, person, or other equipment could fall from and cause injury. As with most things, there is a wide variety of fall protection equipment available depending on your facility, your budget, and the frequency of use.
Many times we reference OSHA standards in our industry and while it is a great tool and great organization, we consider their requirements to be the bare minimum. Your facility and your industry may have standards that far exceed the OSHA requirements and that is a very good thing. Make sure when laying out your safety plans or adding safety equipment that you take into consideration how it will be used, what equipment is going to be affected by it, and how your employees can easily and safely implement your safety practices. Keep the bare minimum in mind, but plan and build for the reality of your situation.
We hope this has given you some helpful information, as well as some things to consider checking or adding to your facility to improve your safety systems.
Check out our other blogs on Loading Dock Safety and Risk Assessment for more helpful tips.
We are here to help if you have any concerns or questions please Contact Us today for a no-obligation safety and OSHA compliance check
As a seasoned industry veteran, I have heard “I hate that door” many times in my career. Why would someone hate a door? The root of the problems are due to one or more of these three reasons: wrong application, wrong activation or install/service issues.
Wrong application. As a commercial door and dock equipment dealer, we often see a misunderstanding of equipment capability. Perhaps viewing a door in action at a trade show or at another facility and thinking “that will work for us” leads to a poor decision. Understand not all doors are equal. There are so many types and variations it is tough to know them all unless you live in the door industry and provide and service all types of doors. Many door dealers are focused on sectional doors which are typically the lowest-performing door available. Be sure to work with a dealer who handles all types of commercial doors such as high-speed fabric, high-speed steel & security, high performance, impact, sliding, fire and more.
Wrong activation or safeties? A door is only as good as the tools (activation & safeties) used to open/close it. Many factors need to be considered to determine the best method to open/close your doors and keep your personnel safe. Not all applications are the same. Not even close.
Undependable door. How could this happen? Even the best-applied door with the right activation will be hated if it was installed wrong or improperly adjusted or serviced. Many door dealers utilized sub-contractors which are paid by the job with no tie-back to quality. A low-cost installation will become a big expense for you in the years to follow.
Many reps will simply try to “sell” whatever they have rather than look out for your best interest. Be sure to work with a dealer who can offer multiple solutions on both doors and activation while guaranteeing their workmanship for the life of the installation. Application, activation and proper installation/service will keep you from uttering the words “I hate that door.”
An area of your facility that generally gets very high usage would be your doors, whether it be overhead doors, rolling steel doors, fire doors, bug/screen doors, freezer/cooler doors, traffic doors or high-speed doors. They get used relentlessly and most people don’t give them a second thought until there is a problem. Every facility is different and has specific needs as well as traffic patterns and equipment. Your door service provider should be able to talk to you about all of these different applications and help you make the best possible decisions for your specific needs. The correct application and installation will save both time and money, which we could all use a little more of.
Make sure your door service provider is not ‘One Dimensional’ and can only offer you very limited options simply because that’s what they have. Your service provider should be able to help guide you and understand the different compliance requirements such as AIB, FDA, USDA, TSA, Global Food Safety, OSHA. There are consequences to not meeting the requirements and downtime that transfers directly to your bottom line. Doors play a large role in compliance.
Don’t get caught with an issue where a door won’t close on Friday afternoon when everyone has plans to head up north or at a minimum be done with work at a reasonable hour. Service and upgrades to existing doors are as critical as the door application itself. Make sure your service provider is truly an expert and can help you with all of your doors from this perspective as well.
At Dock and Door Tec, we work with all these types of doors on a daily basis in a vast array of commercial/industrial environments. Whether you have questions or are looking for options feel free to give us a call, we are here to help!
Dock & Door Tec, Account Manager
I recently worked with a client that had a need for vehicle restraints. The company is very safety conscious and noticed they were having some issues with trailers creeping away from their loading docks even though they had been chocked. During our conversation we discovered that the company was handling loads with various trailer types; refers, a straight truck with lift-gates, and standard trailers. They, of course, had been looking at a few different dock equipment companies to provide solutions for their facility and had been given the basic information on standard hook restraints. The question is, will these work.
When your facility is looking into vehicle restraints, there are some basic rules of thumb that should be taken into account.
1.) What is your company’s protocol for securing trailers at the loading dock?
2.) What types of trailers does your facility receive at the loading dock?
3.) What policy will you have in place regarding communication between your dock and the driver?
In the case above, no one took into account that the same dock will receive both standard trailers and lift gates. While the external hook restraints will work for the standard trailers and refers, the problem came in with the lift gates. The gates are lowered before the truck backs into the dock. This renders the restraint useless and they could be damaged by the gate being in the lowered position and backing into them.
The solution. A pit hook restraint. These mount under the dock and are fully retracted when not in use. This allows for the hook to engage the rig bars on your standard trailers and refers and communicates with the drivers that their vehicles are secured. Now, how do you secure your lift gate trucks? What is your protocol for communicating with the dock and drivers as to who is secured and who isn’t?
We looked at the situation, spoke with the facilities coordinator and came up with a complete two-part solution for their individual need.
In most cases, loading docks will be able to use one type of vehicle restraint or another. The question is, are you asking the right questions when dealing with a dock equipment company? How do you know the equipment will work for your situation and be cost-effective?
I hope this information is helpful if you are looking into vehicle restraints. If you would like more information on what questions you should ask or for information on the different types of solutions that are available, please feel free to contact us directly.
When is the ideal time for your critical equipment to break? I would guess your answer would be never. Since we all live in reality we know every piece of equipment could break at any given time. No matter how good the manufacturing process, no matter how good your maintenance program is, sometimes parts just break. If you have ever had to make an urgent call, all the while hoping that you can get a technician out to take a look at it and then hoping beyond hope that the service technician has the parts on his truck to fix the problem, you understand the stress.
Over the past several years I have seen a subtle change that moves the chances of a quick repair from a 50/50 gamble to almost a certainty. This strategy is not “a weird little trick” it is a sound business decision. More and more companies are stocking parts for their critical equipment. Having parts on hand eliminates one of the most common factors, out of stock parts. Just call in your service company or have your qualified maintenance mechanic make the repair. As the saying goes “Control what you can control.”
Just this morning I got a call from one of our rural clients, a 3PL that runs at full capacity. Their docks and doors are critical. Over the weekend they had a door spring break. They had a replacement spring on the shelf and were able to replace the broken spring and get the door working. Now, I don’t recommend just anyone climb a ladder and start replacing door springs as winding springs can be a dangerous endeavor. They have qualified mechanics on staff and of course, had the parts they needed. After their call, I ordered a replacement spring and in a couple of days, they will have their new door spring on the shelf.
We also have several clients that keep parts for their loading docks on hand. Some clients do their own work and some call on us to provide service. Control what you can. If you need help in determining which parts you should stock we can help.