Loading dock safety should be a major priority due to the potential severity of injuries that can occur from accidents. Injuries sustained when lift trucks tip over or fall from docks, or those that occur when workers, as well as pedestrians, are impacted by a lift truck, falling load, or tractor-trailer, tend to be very serious and sometimes fatal. Prevention of these and other types of accidents can be achieved through the use of proper equipment, proper training, and enforcement of safe operating procedures. The following recommendations can improve safety on loading docks – some of these are equipment related, while most are simply procedural.

Use portable jack stands when loading and unloading trailers to prevent potential tipping of lift trucks.

Equip lift trucks with spotlights; also, use dock-mounted lights to supplement lift-truck lights.

Purchase forklifts with side shifting capability – they help to prevent product damage and promote safety by allowing the lift truck operator to perform the task with fewer movements and eliminating the need for the forklift to be right up against the wall of a trailer.

Have all equipment maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations – this includes lift trucks, dock levelers, vehicle restraining devices, dock doors, and automatic signaling devices.

Whenever possible, avoid having workers in trailers while a lift truck is loading or unloading.

Perform a visual inspection of the trailer prior to driving a lift truck into it – damaged and rotting floorboards are common in older trailers.

If lift trucks are used to unload straight trucks (i.e., small delivery trucks), make sure the straight truck has the capacity to handle the weight of the lift truck and loads.

Use physical barriers at open edges of docks and ramps and adjacent to pedestrian walkways.

Use paint or tape to designate staging areas, through aisles, and loading lanes – make sure workers recognize the designations.

Use traffic cones or portable barricades to block off staging lanes where pedestrians may be walking.

Keep the dock areas clean and free of debris.

Designate areas for storage of used pallets, containers, and trash.

Limit the stacked height of used pallets and containers.

Limit the stacked height of materials in staging areas, especially if pedestrians will be walking around the materials.

Leave sufficient aisle space between rows of staged material if workers may be required to inspect or otherwise access the materials.

Do not allow workers to stand between a trailer and the dock.

Do not allow workers to climb on docks at undesignated places or to place any part of their bodies outside of the dock door.

If workers need to climb down into the dock area, make sure proper ladders or stairs are provided.

Train all workers about the hazards of dock-area work – do not limit training to lift truck operators only.

COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services Properties, Inc.