Loading dock safety: what do you need to consider?

The risks

The risks posed by loading dock operations can vary dramatically from site to site, and even from bay to bay, depending on the specific circumstances involved. As with other areas of the business, the risks need to be determined by regular assessments before safety plans are developed.

The risks posed by loading dock operations can vary dramatically from site to site

There are six common causes of accident in the loading dock area:

  • Falls from height
  • Movement of vehicles
  • Goods strikes
  • Automation equipment
  • Loading bay pull-offs / drive-aways
  • Uncontrolled loading bay access

Other factors to consider include:

  • Security
  • Pest control
  • Efficiency
  • Environmental impact
  • Traffic flow


Practical considerations

A wide range of loading bay variables will influence the choice of safety solution proposed. These include:

  • Vehicle mix – fixed-bed, semi-trailer or articulated vehicles;
  • Door type – manual or automatic;
  • Door construction – sectional, up-and-over / vertical lifting or roller shutter;
  • Loading bay equipment – lights, traffic lights, levellers, air cushions;
  • Single- or double-height trailers;
  • Communication between drivers and loaders – physical barriers, languages, noise, access points;
  • Temporary and third-party personnel;
  • Training and knowledge.


Safety solutions – What is common practice?

Generally, sites operate a procedure-based system with different levels of sophistication, which all require management intervention. One or more of the following safety precautions will be present:

  • Nothing
  • Traffic lights
  • Leaving the driver’s keys in the office
  • Hanging the driver’s keys on the loading bay door
  • Banksmen / traffic marshals
  • Simple wheel chocks
  • Experience


What are the benefits of engineered solutions?

Engineered solutions isolate the potential hazard by immobilising vehicles while loading takes place. The method of restraint differs between solutions, but each restraint will:

  • Enforce loading procedures;
  • Remove the risk of error;
  • Reduce the dependence on verbal communication for safety;
  • Provide feedback on usage;
  • Improve efficiency;
  • Improve security;
  • Protect assets and personnel.


 Implementing a safe system

There are a number of steps to follow to establish a safety system that is reasonable and practicable:

By: Jason Reed, UK Sales Manager, Castell Safety International Ltd.

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