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.
Safety hazards exist in every workplace – from the smallest office to the biggest warehouse. Heavy machinery, distracted walking, water on the floor, heavy traffic areas, etc. Slips, trips, and falls are a major source of preventable injuries and deaths in the workplace; only motor vehicle incidents cause more worker fatalities. The loading dock area, in particular, is ripe with potential dangers.
Since safety measures come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, what can you as an employer do to make your facility as safe as it can be for yourself, your employees, and visitors?
Let’s look at each situation and how you can help prevent injury and equipment damage.
Things like water on your dock from a leaky dock seal or rain shelter is an easy opportunity for someone to slip and end up in one of the situations above. Especially without the proper fall protection or safety training – but more on that later.
Routinely checking your dock seals for rips, tears, blowouts and other damage can help ensure that they form a proper seal when a truck comes in during inclement weather. Replacing them when they do leak is another preventative measure you can take. Things like barrel fans or dock fans can help dry out wet puddles or slick spots as well. HVLS fans can also help combat condensation and moisture build-up throughout your facility. Rain shelters are another excellent way of sealing up the opening when a truck is in position. They also help keep out all the runoff from the roof and the rain coming down and penetrating the seal even without a truck in position.
This also applies to winter – we know it’s June – but snow and ice can cause just as much if not more water ingress into your building as rain. Melt and runoff from trailers, steps, your parking lot, all bring water into your facility. Proper dock seals and canopies can help relieve some of this at your loading dock. Water absorbing mats and fans can help keep your floor dry.
Common sense and a little patience can eliminate many fall hazards. Unfortunately in today’s rush rush world, we often set aside common sense in the interest of getting it done now. How many times have you yourself used something sketchy or maybe just a bit on the dangerous side to climb up because it was close and you didn’t want to wait for the proper ladder to get there? Have you ever seen racking scaled to get to something that should be gotten to with a lift but it’s on the other side of the warehouse and we need it now? How many times have our workers jumped out of the loading dock to the ground instead of walking to exit to take the stairs?
We talked about fall protection in our blog Hazard Recognition – 3 commonly overlooked serious situations and it is a serious problem. In fact, it’s one of OSHA’s Top 10 violations (see here, Fall Protection – Top 10 on OSHA’s violation list, for the remaining 9 – and notice that fall protection training is in there too).
Fall protection at your loading dock can be as simple as having enough of the right size and capacity ladders to installing safety netting or gates to adding truck restraints at every dock position. There are so many options to fit every situation, every need, and every budget, it’s a no-brainer to investigate what you can do to ensure your safety, the safety of your employees, and protect your equipment and products.
Proper training is crucial for the prevention of slips, trips, and falls. This includes equipment training for all employees, common-sense procedures, regular and thorough general housekeeping, and policies that enforce and enhance your safety practices. The old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure most certainly applies.
The NSC’s Make Fall Safety a Top Priority article has some very simple and great tips for fall protection.
How can we help?
As always, 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.
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.
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
Stump-out? Like the chemical that is used to get rid of unwanted tree stumps? What does that have to do with loading dock equipment? No, we’re not talking about that kind of stump-out. In the loading dock industry stump-out is an all too common problem and huge cost of ownership with mechanical dock levelers that can wreak havoc and create a hazardous work area.
What is it?
Ironically enough, stump-out is caused by pieces of the dock meant to keep it safe. Stump-out occurs on mechanical dock levelers when the mechanical fall safe legs contact their stops. The legs then interfere with the vertical movement of a dock leveler that naturally occurs during loading and unloading. Stump-out can also occur when mechanical fall safe legs can be manually released by pulling a release activator in the dock leveler deck assembly. The release is required every time the dock leveler must pass the below the stop position of the mechanical fall safe legs. Upward movement during use can cause the safety leg to reset to the stored position.
How do I know if I have stump-out?
Take a look at your dock while it’s in use. Does it look like this?
Do your forklift drivers complain about big bumps or jarring stops going in and out of trucks?
Do your forklifts have tire damage that isn’t normal wear and tear?
Does your product ever take a spill off pallets while being loaded or unloaded?
If so, you probably have a stump-out situation happening.
No matter how it happens, stump-out creates a steep incline of the lip. That, in turn, causes any lift truck to be severely jarred or stopped completely when trying to exit a truck, causing possible injury to the driver or damage to any product being moved, the lift truck, or the leveler itself. While there are designs and versions of mechanical fall safe legs that can remain retracted until they are required, they do not always activate like they should. Many times they are activated by lip rotation or speed sensing. Rollers and spring-loaded cross-traffic legs do not solve the stump out problem and add to the cost of ownership. They are high failure rate parts and are in constant danger and motion during loading and unloading. All of which will cost you time and money.
Lots of time and money. In some cases, there are as many as 20-30 parts for EACH mechanical fall safe leg that can fail. Over and over again. With some of our own clients, we have seen repair bills that would have covered the difference of purchasing a hydraulic leveler in the first place. And would have more than covered the cost of a hydraulic conversion.
Stump-out also poses a major safety risk to your employees. Constant jarring and sudden stops can cause back and neck injuries. In turn, costing you downtime due to injury and potential worker’s compensation claims.
As well as employee safety, what about your equipment? The jarring and sudden stops cause repeated damage to your forklifts and other equipment that will all-cause premature wear and tear. Meaning you will need more maintenance and sooner replacement. All causing you downtime and efficiency deficiency.
How to fix it?
Instead of throwing parts and money away trying to fix a problem that will keep happening no matter how good your service team is, address the problem head-on. Most loading dock companies are representing a single manufacturer and have a very limited number of solutions. As an independent loading dock service & repair company, we have options that work for all situations. We will assess your situation and work with our partners to design a solution that works for your facility and your budget.
For more information, contact us and we will provide a solution for this potentially costly and hazardous problem.
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