The loading dock serves as the beginning and ending point for many warehouse activities, and it is often busy 24 hours a day in large facilities. While busy usually means business is good, a bustling loading dock can be a dangerous environment for an unprepared worker. If you work on a loading dock, then you should understand how to protect yourself inside this area of the warehouse. Below are several specific safety practices to keep in mind:
Watch for falling loads when unloading
Working on a loading dock means you need to be careful and alert even before you handle a load. When unloading a truck, expect that loads have shifted during transit and may be resting against the trailer doors. Should you open these doors without considering this possibility, the load may fall out and land on top of you. Preventing this from happening requires you to open doors from the side, out of the fall zone, and to use slow, deliberate movements to give yourself time to get away should a falling load occur.
Properly stack loads
Another common accident in a loading dock is the failure to properly stack loads. This occurs due to the general hustle-and-bustle atmosphere and a lack of substantial racking to hold pallets or containers in their transient phase. Sloppy handling and placement can lead to accidents while loads are waiting for movement to a permanent storage rack or whenever they are picked up later for relocation. That is why it is vital to use safe stacking practices when placing loads on top of one another. Never place a heavier load on top of a lighter one, and always use a "pyramid" approach to loading by placing smaller loads on top of larger ones. In addition, take time to carefully align loads to prevent unstable stacks from developing. For example, match corner-to-corner whenever possible from top-to-bottom.
Avoid slips and falls
In the loading dock, the constant movement of material, as well as exposure to outdoor elements, increases the likelihood of spills and the introduction of rainwater and melting snow. If you are moving in a hurry, then the chances of a slip are higher should you encounter a pool of moisture. Always walk in a measured pace in loading docks, and be sure to wear slip-resistant footwear and promptly replace shoes or boots with worn soles. Should you spot a wet area, immediately stop all tasks and monitor the area to protect other workers. Finally, keep overhead doors closed as much as possible, especially when weather conditions are poor, to prevent water intrusion.
Practice proper lifting
Back injuries affect over one million workers in the United States every year, and the probability of incurring a back injury increases greatly when improperly handling a load. Lifting should be done using the legs, not the back, and obtain help whenever possible if the load is substantial. In addition, avoid lifting over your head, as this motion can contribute to serious back injury. Take time before your work shift to stretch for a minute or two; even a minimal amount of stretching can help prevent muscle tightness that can lead to injury. If you are unsure of how to lift properly, consult your facility's safety team and request training.
Beware of vehicular traffic
Loading docks are filled not only with human activity, but vehicle traffic is prevalent, as well. Ideally, procedures are in place that prevent human-vehicle collisions, but the close quarters of a loading dock can still be hazardous. To prevent an accident, there are a couple of steps you can take to keep yourself safe:
- Wear bright colored vests and headgear to remain visible to vehicle drivers.
- Utilize demarcated walking lanes and use safety mirrors to avoid collisions at forklift crossings.
- Stay alert when working in "choke zones" such as truck unloading ramps where vehicle and pedestrian traffic can intersect.
- Watch for forklifts backing down aisles, as the driver may not be able to see you if they fail to use mirrors. Do not enter a narrow aisle without ensuring it is completely clear of vehicle traffic.
- If you are driving a forklift, be sure to drive at posted speed limits, utilize mirrors when backing, and use your horn liberally to warn pedestrians.
For more information and options for increasing safety and efficiency in your work zone, talk with industrial and pallet racking companies, such as Commercial Hardware.