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Loading Dock: Safety Rules & OSHA Compliance

Loading docks are a critical point of commerce and are an essential part of a reliable supply chain. Warehouses, factories, hospitals, and many other businesses have loading docks located on-site. Today we will discuss the various safety rules that apply to loading docks and the safety hazards that can occur.

First, what is a loading dock? A loading dock is an area of a building where cargo vehicles, mostly trucks, are loaded and unloaded. The docks are leveled to a certain height to accommodate the height of cargo vehicles. They typically provide access to storage rooms or staging area.

Loading Dock Safety Hazards

Meeting dock safety rules may seem easy, just avoid the edge! While this may seem true, meeting safety compliance regulations is much more than that. Employers must inform employees of all safety rules and procedures then take the necessary actions to prevent accidents.  

Let’s review safety hazards we commonly see at docks:

  • A slippery, wet, oily, or broken dock surface can cause falls.
  • Unchocked trailer wheels causing injuries.
  • Loose dock plates can cause slips.
  • Carbon monoxide exposure, causing illness and/or unconsciousness.
  • Injuries from falling.
  • Back injuries from improper lifting and/or carrying.
  • Careless/reckless behavior around the dock causing injuries.

Many of these hazards are forklift-related and can be fatal. Slow down, watch out for others, and be aware of the edge of the dock when operating a forklift.

Loading Dock Safety Recommendations

OSHA has several loading dock safety recommendations to keep your team safe.

Be aware of Loading Dock Hazards:

Loading docks are especially prone to hazards as they are exposed to the weather outside. Your team should regularly be cleaning any leaves, water, or any other debris that gets collected in or by your loading dock. Oil from the forklifts are another common hazard we see on dock floors. Remember, a clean and dry working surface is an OSHA requirement. Do your part, keep your floor clean.

Be Alert to Traffic and Materials:

A loading dock can be a busy place and loud place. Be aware of any forklift sounds you may hear and pay attention to the materials itself. Many accidents occur when materials on the dock roll or fall.  Hard hats, eye protection, and hearing protection are required to protect yourself against any falling object. Finally, make sure to minimize all possible traffic around the bay. Cutting down on unnecessary employees around the dock will lead to fewer incident reports.

OSHA-Required Dock Barriers

Simply put, you must have safety barriers at your dock. OSHA states that any wall opening or hole with a drop more than four feet must have a barrier. This is a federal guideline that is enforced strictly, so make sure to check up on your local requirements. It is often recommended to use bars as they will have the most protection against a forklift or person falling off the loading dock. Visual barriers can be used as well, but only if a facility can prove a guardrail or bars would hinder visibility.

Safety with Truck and Trailers

Loading dock protection includes safety when working with all trucks and trailers. First, check that all truck and trailer wheels are chocked before loading or unloading. Also check that the vehicle is parked close to the loading dock. Make sure that the driver turns off their motor in order to prevent carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible, and it can be fatal.  Proper ventilation is a requirement around loading docks and should be inspected regularly.

Forklift Safety

Forklifts are often involved in accidents at the loading dock, and many of these accidents are avoidable. Firstly, it is easy to misjudge the distance between the edge and your forklift. By putting yellow caution lines around your dock’s edge, you will help prevent forklifts from falling off the dock. It is also recommended to use curbed ramps and dock boards to keep your lift trucks from sliding around.

Load and Unload Correctly

By loading and unloading correctly you are preventing injuries. Remember to always use a forklift, dolly, or any other aid to lift when you’re by yourself. When you must lift, bend your knees and keep your back straight. When using a hand truck make sure to balance and secure all loads and keep it at a height that you can see over.

Safety is a Priority

Achieving proper safety protocol is no easy task, especially at a busy loading dock. That’s why you and your team must develop routine safety training for all employees while also following all OSHA guidelines to help reduce accidents. Remember, safety starts with you.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today to schedule a consultation for all your safety needs!

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