Slips, Trips, and Falls – Buck the fatality trend!
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.
How many times have you slipped on the ice or slipped on a small puddle of water? You might tweak your back or give yourself a bit of a start, but it usually doesn’t result in a serious injury. Unfortunately, we don’t normally see slips as a big threat to our safety until it’s a BIG one. Imagine someone slipping off your loading dock and falling between a truck and the dock. Imagine someone slipping in front of an oncoming forklift. The potential for a slip to become a serious or fatal injury is there.
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.
Clutter. Cords. Poor Lighting. Debris. Distracted walking. Need we say more. All these things can lead to someone tripping and falling and hurting themselves. Keeping your loading dock area clean and clutter-free goes a long way to preventing trips.
- Clean up and debris or spills immediately
- Repair cracks, holes, or other floor damage right away
- Keep containers, packaging, and tools out of the way
- Make sure cords are tucked away and out of the traffic lanes. Or get rid of cords completely by adding in modern lighting fixtures, dock lights, fans and other equipment that can be hard-wired and used without running cords all over your floor.
- Create and enforce a clear policy on cell phone/walkie usage while in traffic lanes or in the loading dock area. Keeping people off their cell phones or walkies and paying attention to where they are walking and what is going on around them will help tremendously with trips and with pedestrian vs forklift accidents. So can upgrading any old or malfunctioning communication or dock lights in your facility.
Falls in your facility are almost 100% preventable. Take out human – let’s call it ingenuity to be nice – and there is almost no fall situation that cannot be prevented with the proper equipment and training. According to the National Safety Council, in 2014 alone, 660 workers died from falls and 49,210 were injured badly enough to need time off work. Take out the construction industry and those numbers are 301 and 26,880 respectively.
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.
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.