While employee training should always be top riority, another way to minimize risk around loading docks is to take advantage of current
technologies. While loading dock equipment has traditionally been fairly low-tech, that’s changing. Here are
10 high-tech solutions that can help increase safety for
workers at the loading dock:
1. Reduce Radio Noise and Busy Paperwork with
Loading Dock and Trailer Management Software
New loading dock software can create a safer environment by clearly communicating the current status of each
dock position. From the moment drivers arrive at a facility
and check in at a touchscreen kiosk, managers and yard
personnel have a constant, real-time digital view of where
the trailer is in the loading/unloading process.
This type of software takes the place of internal paperwork and distracting radio conversations that can all too
often lead to human error. Reducing confusion not only
improves safety and increases productivity, it helps reduce
detention and demurrage charges incurred when trucks
have excessive wait times before loading or unloading.
2.Introduce a Blue Light Policy with
Motion-Activated Sensors and Lights
New light communication technology allows facility managers to beam a blue light onto a loading dock leveler to
help prevent forklift and pedestrian collisions. This light
is similar to the blue warning lights commonly found on
many forklifts, but (unlike the forklift light) it is visible to
workers on the dock even if a forklift is in the nose of the
trailer, helping to keep the blue light in plain sight.
3. Build Confidence with Enhanced Light
Communication Inside at the Loading Dock
Loading dock workers are familiar with the red/green
lights adjacent to or incorporated into the control boxes
at each dock position. However, ancillary products have
been developed to maintain line-of-sight communication
regardless of obstructions in front of mounted light boxes.
Found in the upper corners and/or embedded next to the
leveler, these control box mimicking lights help communicate current restraint status to forklift drivers as they both
enter and exit trailers.
4. Keep Boots Off the Ground with Light and
Audio Communication Outside the Dock
Outside of the loading dock, sensors can detect when
5. Verify Restraint Engagement and Trailer Stand
a trailer is backing into a dock position. When activated,
a light embedded in a vehicle restraint or in standalone
mounted box flashes and an audible alarm sounds to
warn workers of the backing vehicle. This system provides
crucial extended warning time.
Presence from Inside the Loading Dock
In most cases, reducing the number of processes which
place employees outside on the dangerous drive approach
is the best defense against back-over accidents. Lock
verification systems, which use an outside camera and
inside monitor, help keep boots off the ground and maintain
supply chain integrity. The camera helps capture when a
trailer has arrived at a given dock position and when/if
it is properly restrained. Dual camera systems can also
help detect if a trailer stand is present.
6. Help Mitigate Trailer Separation Accidents
with Premium Shadow Hook Technology
Restraints that secure a vehicle when it backs up to the
facility are essential for creating safe loading dock environments. Today’s leading restraints operate automatically,
most commonly wrapping around a trailer’s rear-impact
guard (RIG), to secure it to the loading dock.
RIG-based automated restraints not only enhance employee safety by ensuring the trailer can’t be mistakenly
pulled away when a forklift is still inside, they also help
prevent other trailer mishaps, including “trailer creep”
(gradual separation from the building); trailer pop-up or
upending; and landing gear collapse, all while keeping
boots off the ground of the dangerous drive approach.
7. Reduce Chronic Injuries with Ergonomic
Loading Dock Systems
Crossing the gap from the loading dock floor to the back
of a trailer can be a bumpy, painful ride. Well-designed
dock levelers reduce the jarring, whole-body vibration
(commonly referred to as “dock shock”) that forklift operators experience going in and out of the trailer. Levelers
that smooth this transition also decrease the chances
of damage to products and equipment.
8. Maintain Supply Chain Integrity with
Drive-Through Application Solutions
“Drive-through” docks are quickly gaining recognition as
the gold standard for safety and security in food, pharma, and
other industry segments. In this application, a trailer’s doors
remain locked until it has backed into the dock and been
secured. At that point, the overhead dock door is raised,
the security seal broken, and the trailer doors are opened
into the building. This limits opportunities for exposure to
outside elements and/or contaminants that could degrade
the cargo or break the cold chain. It also eliminates the
safety hazard of workers going outside onto the drive ap-
proach to unlock the trailer and minimizes slip hazards
caused by outside precipitation.
Drive-through applications require a vertically storing
leveler, automated vehicle restraint and loading dock shelter that allows trailer doors to open inside a facility. An
under-leveler seal designed for vertical levelers is also
worthwhile, as closing the “fourth side” gap will enhance
energy efficiency and minimize moisture or pest infiltration.
9. Implement Pedestrian & Equipment Fall
Protection Technologies to Help Protect the
A worker falling from a dock door opening is extremely
dangerous. Some levelers can be equipped with safety lips
that automatically create a drive-off barrier when the leveler
is in a stored position. They vary in height, depending on
the needs of the facility. Industry leading levelers have lips
that can stop a forklift weighing 10,000 pounds traveling
at 4mph without damage to the leveler. It’s an upgrade
that emphasizes safety.
10. Interlock Safety Equipment with Safe
Sequence of Operations
Traditionally, each piece of loading dock equipment
—including vehicle restraints, levelers and overhead
doors—is operated independently of the others. While
most are now operated with the push of a button, there
is still risk involved regarding the order of use.
Today’s leading loading dock control systems can ensure
that workers operate equipment in a safe sequence of operation. For example, a common programmable sequence
requires the vehicle restraint to be properly engaged before
an overhead door can be raised. Continuing this safe sequence, the door must then be raised before the dock leveler
can be operated. Even if the buttons are pushed in the
wrong order, the programmed sequence prevents anything
from happening – helping to avert disaster. When a trailer is
ready to leave a facility, this order of operation is reversed.
Loading docks are inherently dangerous areas, and it is
critical that workers follow safety protocols and all safety
equipment is kept in top-working condition. If your facility
is considering upgrading its loading docks, consider ret-rofitting with new, state-of-the-art equipment and software
to mitigate risk and improve safety. Your employees and
customers will be glad you did.
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