As we head into the fall and eventually winter, we start to focus on keeping warm. Keeping the cold air from blowing through our doors. Keeping the temperature in that sweet spot of not too hot and not too cold. But what about water? Not just from fall rainstorms but from melting snow and ice.
We know. It’s September. Are we really talking about snow and ice? Yep. We are.
Winter in the Midwest is hard. It can be brutal on your loading dock equipment and bottom line. It’s cold. It’s warm(ish). It’s sunny. It’s snowing. All of that can cause chaos with your loading dock equipment. Melting (and then refreezing) snow and ice pose serious safety concerns and performance problems at your loading docks.
Slippery docks are dangerous to your employees and visiting drivers alike. The potential for someone to slip and fall greatly increases if your docks are not properly sealed and water or ice is present. Forklifts going in and out of trailers will transfer water throughout your facility, creating even more chances for someone to slip and fall. This can lead to injuries, time off, workers comp – all of these can be avoided by paying closer attention to your loading dock and the potential for water infiltration.
Ever smelled a stagnant swamp or bucket of water? Standing water can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Bacteria poses numerous threats to the health of your staff and food facilities can be a major violation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. FSMA requires you to have a food safety plan in place that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent the identified hazards.
A pest infestation can be another violation, especially in food and pharma facilities. Any gaps in your seals or equipment can lead to issues with requirements and compliance.
Have you ever tried to pry something off the ground that good ole’ Mr. Winter has frozen? Say your garbage can after it’s been sitting for a week with constant thaw and freeze. Not a whole lot of fun and sometimes an unsuccessful venture. Now imagine that at your loading docks. Imagine melted ice and snow working its way down into your metal loading docks and thawing and refreezing. Over and over again. Many repairs we perform during the winter could be prevented by properly maintained and sealed equipment. A nagging or small issue in July can become a big problem in December
So, what should I do?
Check out our other blogs on facility modernization and safety for more ideas on how to improve your facility and your bottom line.
As always, we hope you find this information useful and you find something that you can do in your facility to help prevent the winter blues. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.
How many times have we all not done something the way it should be done simply because we are too tired? Or cut corners to shave a little bit of time off a project because it’s been so intense to work on? How many near misses with errors or injuries have we all had because we are unable to focus or have turtle speed reaction times?
Employee fatigue can be expensive, decrease your companies’ productivity and ultimately your bottom line. Employers and employees are becoming increasingly aware that workplace fatigue can be a serious safety issue.
Let’s dig into workplace fatigue a bit and see what we all can do to help combat this surprisingly common and often overlooked safety concern.
What is fatigue?
The dictionary defines fatigue as “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness”. Fatigue can be caused by a number of things, both work and personal. Physical stresses such as lifting heavy objects or operating machinery or tools for long periods of time can cause physical fatigue. Mental stresses such as prolonged periods of intense focus or long, difficult or spirited meetings can cause mental fatigue. Other factors such as long commutes, working overnight shifts, not having adequate rest during or after shifts, long hours, work environment conditions like dim lighting or noisy conditions, longer hours, can all play a role in workplace fatigue. Even having poor social interactions with your co-workers can cause fatigue. It’s not just about how much or how good of sleep you get.
Effects of fatigue
Fatigued people lack focus and fall behind on projects or simply don’t have the energy to pay attention to what is going on around them. Slower reaction times and decreased cognitive ability can have devastating safety consequences. Simply put – when people are fatigued they tend to make bad choices. In this article from the National Safety Council (NSC), Fatigue – You’re More Than Just Tired, there are some eye-opening facts on fatigue and what it does to our bodies, our productivity, our mental health, and overall wellness.
Fatigued workers are also more apt to contract common illnesses and struggle with overcoming them. Since people suffering from fatigue are already experiencing physical effects from fatigue they are more susceptible to common illnesses and can’t fight them off as easily. That, in turn, leads to more sick days, less production time, and yep, more stress. It can be a vicious cycle.
Who does fatigue affect?
While fatigue affects everyone, night shift workers, drivers, healthcare, and construction workers are most a risk. According to this article published by OSHA our bodies operate on a circadian rhythm sleep/wake cycle. It is naturally programmed for sleeping during night hours. Demanding work schedules may disrupt the body’s natural cycle, leading to increased fatigue, stress and lack of concentration. Long work hours and extended and irregular shifts may lead to fatigue and to physical and mental stress.
How does fatigue harm the workplace?
Some of the most deadly catastrophes in the past 30 years have been caused in part by fatigue due to sleep deprivation. According to this article citing Dr. Denis Cronson; in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, employees had been working up to 14-hour shifts and a tired third mate had fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the second largest oil spill in American history. In the Chernobyl disaster, the power plant exploded after engineers had worked 13 hours or more, causing probably the worst nuclear disaster in history. In the Canadian National train disaster, two crewmen on one of the freight trains suffered from sleep apnoea that caused chronic sleeplessness and resultant fatigue and crashed into another train, spilling 3000 gallons of diesel and finally in the Air France disaster, the official report concluded that the pilot had had only had one hour of sleep the night before, and was taking a nap when the plane collided with a tropical storm, killing all 228 people on board.
OK so those are extreme examples but they put into perspective what can happen with fatigued workers. And what can happen if employers don’t recognize and address fatigue in their employees? Here are some examples from Safety News Alert of how fatigue can harm our workplaces:
SO……what the heck do we do about it?
Now that are you sufficiently bombarded with doom and gloom facts….let’s talk about how we can recognize, deal with, and help prevent fatigue in our workplace.
We understand that you can’t control your employees once they are off the clock. You can’t tuck them into bed every night, but there are things you can do to help them understand how to deal with fatigue and how to let you know when they are getting to their breaking point.
We hope that we have given you some helpful information and actions that you can take to increase awareness of fatigue at your facility and with your employees and co-workers.
As always, please Contact Us, if you have any questions about our products or services. We are here to help in any way that we can.
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.
Finally, summer is upon us. The snow is gone, the days are warmer and your warehouse doors seem to stay open day and night to allow the breeze to pass through.
As temperatures outside heat up so do temperatures inside. Things can start to get downright hot in the warehouse. A deceivingly gentle breeze across a hot asphalt parking lot can actually raise the ambient temperature in your warehouse by several degrees. Couple this with a busy work environment and you could have a formula for heat exhaustion or heat stroke of employees. This can and has happened in warehouses across the United States.
How can you keep your cool?
One easy and cost-effective way is to invest in HVLS fans. These are designed to circulate large volumes of air at very low speeds. By keeping the air moving throughout your warehouse it keeps the ambient temperature down while allowing the doors to be open and the breeze in. They also help to keep humidity down and cut down on dependency on your HVAC system.
But, this leads to another dilemma… Pests and Birds…
You have your HVLS system moving air, the doors are open, everyone is in a little better mood, until… The bird and bugs make their way in. How much production is lost swatting bugs or chasing birds out of the warehouse? This could be a popular discussion topic on its own here in Minnesota. Do you have swarms of flying insects being “Drawn to the lights” just to die off and fall on your inventory?
To prevent pests from getting in while allowing the doors to be open and the breeze to flow simply invest in affordable dock screen-style doors. No more swatting mosquitoes or chasing birds around. Just a nice, comfortable warehouse and productive employees.
Don’t let summer go by without enjoying what it has to offer.
Consult with professionals now who can help evaluate your situation and provide proper solutions.
In everyday life, there is a risk in just about everything we do. Most of that risk is so insignificant that we don’t even give it a thought. In a warehouse and especially at a loading dock the risk increases drastically. OSHA makes the following statement on their website, “loading docks can be dangerous places for forklifts, falls from a loading dock in a forklift can be fatal.”
With a combination of personnel, heavy equipment, moving product and trucks in the docks, the risks are endless. So, how do you assess risk and what do you do with that assessment?
Webster Defines Risk as: risk noun \’risk\
: the possibility that something bad or unpleasant (such as injury or loss) will happen
: someone or something that may cause something bad or unpleasant to happen
: a person or thing that someone judges to be a good or bad choice for insurance, a loan, etc.
It’s clear that working on a loading dock can be risky. Lots of heavy moving parts combined with foot traffic and moving trucks.
Maybe the bigger questions are:
It is critical to understand the risk in your warehouse and how to mitigate that risk as much as possible. Part of risk mitigation is understanding the costs of death or injury versus the cost of equipment meant to limit the risk. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the cost and maintenance of a truck restraint or a properly maintained dock leveler are far less costly than a serious injury or death.
Have no doubt, mitigating or eliminating risk is attainable, it takes a commitment from management and staff. It takes a clear understanding of the risk and the expenses of doing everything or doing nothing. If you would like more information on risk management or mitigation please contact any of us at Dock & Door Tec. We will be happy to take a look at your facility, listen to you and provide you with a plan to help mitigate your risk.
Since before the first loading dock was installed dock safety has been a concern. As the equipment got better, faster and heavier so too has the danger of working on a loading dock. We have all heard that safety is everyone’s responsibility but after seeing what I have seen on the docks, I question that old adage. I have seen fully loaded forklifts going far faster than they should, I have seen dock equipment ready to collapse being used. I have even seen my boss nearly crushed by a forklift.
So, who is really responsible to stop these mishaps and near misses? In the end, it is your reasonability to keep yourself safe first. You may say that it’s a self-centered act to think of yourself first but I contend that if everyone considered their personal safety first then everyone as a collective unit would be safer as a whole.
It may be difficult to eliminate all loading dock mishaps but it is possible to minimize the damage to both personnel and equipment.
This is a very limited list and each facility has its own unique challenges, know your surroundings and keep yourself safe.
Operations Manager, Dock & Door Tec
To understand dock levelers we must first understand the purpose. A dock leveler is intended to act as a bridge to safely allow for the transfer of goods from a trailer to the building and vice versa.
To best determine the type of leveler needed it is important to gain a full understanding of your needs. Many factors should go into the decision, such as the volume of use, gross weight transferred, type of material handling equipment used (forklift, hand loading, pallet truck, conveyor, etc.), size of product handling, and building layout are just a few.
Regarding cost, of course, the upfront cost is important but we see many paying less upfront (they really got a good deal!) but paying exponentially more over the life of the equipment due to a poor purchasing choice. Looking beyond the upfront cost and understanding the cost of ownership is very important. The other variable is safety, with the wide ranges and type of equipment available safety never has to be compromised.
Operation types can be broken down into three basic types: mechanical, air and hydraulic. There are hybrids of these which are often a great choice, for example a hydraulic leveler with a mechanical lip will work great in many applications.
Type of levelers:
Whether you are replacing existing equipment or designing a new facility it is important to keep your long terms needs front and center when selecting the right piece of equipment.
Big Fans of Big Fans
We’re not talking about the fans who go crazy when you fulfill an order or create a new process. We’re talking about those really big ones that you may have seen somewhere. The proper name for these big fans are HVLS fans. A high-volume, low-speed fan (HVLS) is a large, commercial-grade fan often used to supplement heating and cooling systems. Unlike ordinary fans that span 36 to 52 inches, HVLS fans have diameters up to 24 feet. This bigger size allows them to move huge amounts of air while rotating at slow speeds. The blades of the fans are designed to create an enormous column of air that travels down to the floor and outward in all directions. This jet of air travels horizontally (much farther than residential fans), before flowing back up and reentering the fan.
Benefits of an HVLS fan
There are many sizes and models of HVLS fans. You can even integrate some with solar power or centralized control centers. HVLS fans can provide immediate advantages for your warehouse, and their energy savings and efficiency-boosting abilities mean you can recoup your investment in a short amount of time.
Check out this article from Hunter’s Senior VP, Jeff Chastian on why you need HVLS fans.
To see how much your facility can benefit from our fans, contact us today.
Whether you are replacing existing equipment or designing a new facility it is important to keep your long terms needs front and center when selecting the right piece of equipment.
Recognize the importance of the loading dock
The loading dock is so much more than a platform or entryway — it’s a pivotal part of the supply chain and should be treated as such. Some prefer to call it the Material Transfer Zone (MTZ), as it’s where the important exchange of finished products and raw materials occurs. During this transfer, goods are vulnerable to theft, fire, vandalism, and more.
Know governmental requirements
Depending on the types of materials you are transferring, your handling process may need to meet certain governmental requirements. Agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service; and the Food and Drug Administration all have certain guidelines that can affect your supply chain, including the MTZ. It’s important you become familiar with the various government initiatives and, if need be, modify your loading dock procedures.
Scrutinize your facility from a criminal’s point of view
Walk around your property and examine how easy it is to gain entry into your building. Are locks easily compromised? Are there gaps in or around your loading dock? Do you have a security system? If you realize your facility is less than secure, consider investing in an overhead door/vehicle restraint system that is connected to an electronic security system. When a trailer is released without permission or if the door is breached, an alarm will sound and alert you of any possible dangers.
Upgrade dock door locks
Most manually operated, overhead doors come with locks that are easily broken, making your plant susceptible to unauthorized entry, and standard slide locks eventually wear out and are useless if not replaced or repaired. Not to mention, these types of locks are often ineffective simply because workers forget to engage them. For better defense, ensure your overhead door is secure by installing an automatic lock-down security system.
Use security gate
In hot weather, it can be tempting to leave your dock door open to allow airflow, but a wide-open door simply acts as a welcome sign to unwanted visitors. Instead, of shutting the door completely and suffering through hot, unproductive conditions, think about putting in a steel folding security gate. It allows you to protect your warehouse from unauthorized entry while still allowing visibility and airflow. Also, you can make the dock area more comfortable by installing industrial-grade fans and air exchangers.
Lockdown landing gear
After a trailer is properly positioned against a dock door, it’s not uncommon for a truck driver to unhook his vehicle from the trailer and drive away. However, this poses a security risk at unmonitored docks, as someone could raise or lower the nose of the trailer to create a gap between the trailer and open dock door (a possible entry point). To prevent this problem, use heavy-duty locks on all trailer landing gear, which makes it impossible to move the trailer up or down.
Consider using vertical storing hydraulic dock levelers
There are many types of dock levelers and each has their benefits, but if security is of particular concern at your plant, you may want to use a vertical storing leveler since it allows both trailer and dock doors to remain closed until the trailer is safely connected to the dock and a seal is in place. With other types of levelers, the driver may need to open the trailer door prior to backing into the loading/unloading bay, which puts the cargo at risk for an indefinite amount of time.
Use vehicle restraints
Vehicle restraints keep the trailer from separating from the dock during loading and unloading, and while they are commonly used for worker safety, they are also useful for preventing trailer hijacking. Also, if they are integrated with your dock’s alarm system, a signal will sound if a trailer is unexpectedly released.
Install seals and shelters
Dock seals and shelters are most commonly used for energy efficiency and to guard the warehouse from outside elements, but because they close gaps, they also reduce pilferage and some models can even protect against fire.
Always follow a loading/unloading process
Whenever there are variations in your loading/unloading process, the potential for error and mishaps is greater. An effective way to sequence your operation is to use an electronic dock control system that integrates all your equipment (leveler, restraints, door, shelter, and security) into one streamlined procedure. Such a system ensures all components interlock correctly and prevents damage, which helps to reduce failures and gaps that can lead to unwanted entry into your building.
If you’re unsure if your loading dock is properly secure, ask a professional loading dock company, such as Dock & Door Tec, to inspect your facility. It’s always best to take preventative measures than to deal with the aftermath of a security breach.