Your loading dock is an integral part of your business, regulating the flow of shipments and deliveries. It’s also one of the busiest building hubs. Without proper maintenance, education and training – employees are at risk for injuries ranging from lower-back, shoulder and neck injuries, to slip and fall accidents, and some of the more serious injuries that can as the result of fork lift scenarios gone wrong.
Avoid Loading Dock Injuries With These 7 Tips
The following tips can help to make sure your loading dock is as safe as it is efficient.
1. Observe regular safety meetings. Safety meetings are typically greeted with a roll of the eyes and a groan. The last thing a busy company needs is another meeting, right? In fact, those Friday morning safety meetings – or whatever day/time works best for your company – are integral to the health and well-being of your employees – and the company’s bottom line. Not only does it offer a chance for employees to refresh their memory in regards to your company’s safety guidelines and protocols, it helps to foster a company safety culture, which goes a long way in preventing injuries. When education, training, and weekly safety meetings are routine, workplace injuries are reduced.
2. Keep the paint fresh. The edges of your loading dock should be painted with bright, visible, reflective colors. Sometimes, the business-as-usual mentality can result in faded or missing paint that goes un-noticed because everyone is used to the lay of the land. Make it a point to have the edges of your loading dock repainted on a regular basis so it always looks as bright as new.
3. Post signage. While loading dock personnel have an innate respect and understanding for safety regulations, guests, pedestrians and passersby may not realize how dangerous the area is. Post signage letting passersby know that large, heavy equipment, trucks and trailers are in use. Use verbiage indicating that large trucks and heavy equipment may improperly neglect to yield for them. Again, brightly-painted boundaries and edges will indicate the “safe areas.” Safety lighting is also important for cloudy days and/or the late-night and early-morning hours.
4. Review forklift safety. Forklift falls off a loading dock are one of the most dangerous, possible loading dock accidents – and can result in a workplace fatality. Only OSHA-trained and authorized employees should be allowed to operate powered hand trucks, hand jacks or forklifts. Keep the area safe for forklifts and employees by mitigating wet, icy or slippery conditions that can cause a forklift to continue moving when the brakes or locks are activated, being aware of tail swing, maintaining a safe distance from the edge of loading dock (See #2) and maintaining clean, clear work surfaces.
5. Keep the area clean and clear. Even the smallest amount of debris, grease or oil, moisture or ice can lead to serious injuries. Maintain a clean and clear area in and around loading docks. Spread absorbent materials on spills that cannot be avoided until they are cleared. If chemicals or toxins have been spilled, use caution tape, cones and relevant signage to clearly secure the area and isolate it until it can be remedied. Always move slowly and cautiously over and around slippery areas that cannot be avoided.
6. Protect the people. Protect the individuals and personnel who need to move through and around the loading dock area by using padding or guards on sharp corners. Safeguard open dock edges by using dock barricades. Review warehouse ergonomics and make sure that conveyor heights are adjusted properly, that heavier products are stored at knee- to chest-high levels and that employees are provided with proper safety equipment so they can complete required tasks with the lowest level of risk. Keep an eye on pallets and inspect them regularly, moving products on compromised pallets to safe pallets.
7. Conduct routine inspections. Create a routine inspection procedure to prioritize safety at all times. Some of these inspections will occur daily or multiple times per day. Others may only be required weekly, by-monthly or quarterly, depending on a product’s or equipment’s manufacturer’s instructions.
Worker comfort and safety should always be the top priority of any warehouse, industrial building or manufacturing plant. These 7 tips will help. For more information, contact your local OSHA safety representative.