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How safe are your loading docks?

Loading docks

Loading docks are frequently congested with equipment, goods and people, exposed to weather, and often poorly laid out and lit. These conditions can easily lead to injuries and property loss. Nevertheless, loading docks are often the workplace's most overlooked areas during monthly inspections.

"Loading docks just don't get the same attention that your lifting equipment or racking systems might get," says WSPS Warehouse and Racking Specialist Chuck Leon. Sometimes, they're not even included on an inspection checklist. It's a missed opportunity that hasn't escaped the notice of Ontario's Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Inspectors have routinely written orders for inadequate inspection and maintenance of shipping and receiving areas related to loading docks, says Chuck.

What can go wrong

Loading dock hazards that can result in injuries and even death include:

  • wet, oily, or broken floor surfaces
  • collisions between equipment and pedestrians
  • lift trucks falling off the dock or through the trailer floor
  • collapsing dock plates
  • unsafe trailer movement

You can manage the hazards by implementing control measures and looking at ways to optimize truck traffic, material flow, the staging area, pedestrian traffic, and lighting. "Building a well-designed dock is important, as well as using reliable equipment, monitoring and maintaining equipment regularly, developing dock safety rules, and providing training to lift truck operators, pedestrians, and joint health and safety committee members," says Chuck.

But before you can manage hazards you have to identify them and train your committee members on what to look for in the loading dock area. Here are Chuck's top 13 inspection items.

  1. Are dock approaches free from potholes and deteriorated pavement?
  2. Are dock bumpers in good repair?
  3. Are trailer positions marked with lines or lights for accurate trailer spotting?
  4. Are trailer wheel chocks used to block trailers and prevent movement during loading and unloading operations?
  5. Are there two trailer wheel chocks for each trailer? (The law requires only that wheels be "secured." Chocks are the most common solution for preventing trailers from moving.)
  6. Are trailer wheel chocks chained to the building? Is there a holding rack for the chocks?
  7. Are warning signs or warning lights in use?
  8. If dock levelers are used, are they in proper working order?
  9. Are the loading docks inspected as per the recommendations of the manufacturers?
  10. Do all dock workers and visitors wear personal protective equipment?
  11. Is lighting adequate for the task being performed?
  12. Is snow removed from the loading dock during the winter?
  13. Are the loading docks inspected outside during winter months?

How WSPS can help

Don't miss WSPS' 2020 Warehouse Safety Conference on February 25.

Our warehousing health and safety consultants can work with you to identify and assess loading dock hazards, create customized health and safety procedures, deliver on-site training, and more.

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