Safeguarding Your Loading Dock

No matter how thoroughly you follow OSHA’s safety training requirements, or how diligently you supplement safety requirements with in-house training and programs, there are still likely to be gaps in your company’s loading dock safety efforts. Andy Brousseau, manager of warehouse safety for third-party logistics services provider APL Logistics, offers the following recommendations for efficiently shaping safety training plans.

1. Offer additional forklift safety training. Consider making full forklift operator safety training an annual tradition. In addition, review forklift safety topics during shorter training sessions held throughout the year.

2. Require seatbelts. Insist drivers wear seatbelts every time they get behind the forklift wheel. Just as important, make the penalties for not complying with this requirement so stringent that drivers will think twice before ignoring it.

3. Address forklift safety issues. Monitor as many aspects of operators’ equipment driving records as you can. This helps determine which operators need additional coaching or stronger supervision to address potentially risky habits or issues before they turn into serious accidents.

4. Prepare for spills. Small spills or leaks can lead to major slips. If something spills or leaks on your loading dock or trailers, get it cleaned and dried immediately—even if you have to interrupt loading activities. If you’re unable to address the spill immediately, mark off the area and put up warning cones or signs.

5. Keep truck drivers contained. Creating an official waiting area where drivers can relax and stay out of the way while their trailers are being loaded or unloaded can go a long way toward minimizing risk, especially if that waiting area is the only place drivers are allowed to be.

6. Hold on to drivers’ keys. Request drivers hand over their keys while they’re at your facility so they can’t operate their vehicles until your dock and yard personnel give them the all-clear. This removes the possibility of drivers unlocking a dock door while it’s still in use.

7. Provide non-operators with safety training. Make sure all employees are educated on forklift safety, especially as it pertains to how heavy the vehicles are and which factors affect their load stability. Also, ensure pedestrian loading dock employees understand that they need to be vigilant.

8. Avoid ergonomic injuries. Activities such as unloading trucks with non-palletized cargo can create strain on the neck, shoulder, or back and can cause serious pain. Consider adding an ergonomic awareness component, such as safe lifting training and stressing the importance of task rotation, to your company’s loading dock safety program.

9. Create awareness of falling freight. Freight securement methods occasionally fail and when they do, frequently the person unloading a tractor-trailer takes the hit. In fact, falling freight is one reason to require that your loading dock personnel wear protective clothing such as hard hats and steel-toed boots any time they’re on the job. Consider implementing policies such as having employees open just one truck door at a time when trucks arrive, and to stand behind it when they do.

10. Ensure safety in the yard. Pedestrians who work in your truck yard should wear high-visibility colors, avoid trucks’ blind spots, and refrain from using cellphones or headphones while they’re working outside. Other useful practices include yard cleaning only during daylight hours and working in two-person teams during busy periods.

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