It’s important for warehouse managers to maintain efficiency in all aspects of their operations, but that should never come at the expense of their employees’ health or safety. Given that around a quarter of all injuries occuring in warehouses happen on loading docks, it makes sense to start making positive changes in this busy space. Read on to find out about four ways to avoid warehouse load dock injuries.
Keep Loading Docks Clean and Organized
Keeping the floors clean and dry is one of the easiest ways to avoid an accident on the loading dock. Water, oil, and other liquids spills should be cleaned up immediately, and there should be a plan in place to keep the loading bay free of snowmelt and rainwater. Similarly, all outdoor walkways should be shoveled and de-iced after winter storms.
Organizing the loading dock can also help to prevent slips and falls because organizing reduces tripping hazards. Workers should be instructed to remove and dispose of packing materials like cardboard and shrink wrap immediately, and managers should have a plan in place for dealing with any pallets, containers, or products that must stay in the area so they can be kept out of the way.
Use Safety Markings and Provide Fall Protection
The edges of loading docks should be marked as visibly as possible. Research shows that both forklift operators and pedestrians are less likely to fall off the edge of a dock that is painted bright yellow. Adding these safety markings also reminds workers that the area must remain clear during both loading and unloading.
If the doors are open but the loading dock is not in use, fall protection barriers should also be in place. The most common way to block these openings is with aluminum or steel safety railings. The railings protect workers against falls but don’t limit airflow and ventilation.
Never Let Untrained Drivers Operate Heavy Machinery
OSHA mandates that all forklift operators receive extensive training for a good reason. If operated improperly, forklifts pose a serious safety risk. Every driver should be certified and trained to use the vehicle they are operating. Each forklift has a slightly different set of truck controls and operating instructions, and load capacities vary between models.
Warehouse managers need to make sure their forklift operators receive ongoing training. Schedule new training sessions any time a new vehicle is introduced or the work area is changed. It’s also crucial that operators complete refresher courses every three years.
Establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Managers need to develop SOPs that work for their specific facilities. There’s no one set of rules that should apply to every situation, but most SOP guidelines include:
- Using barriers when trailers aren’t attached
- Restricting forklift speeds
- Securing loads prior to handling
- Removing damaged pallets
- Engaging dock locking devices
- Taking frequent breaks
For those who aren’t sure how to go about writing up SOPs, here’s an example that might help. Remember that even the best-developed SOPs won’t protect workers if managers don’t actively enforce them.
Protecting Workers Is a Serious Responsibility
Loading dock managers need to take their responsibility to workers seriously. Implementing effective safety measures to help prevent loading dock injuries keeps workers safe and healthy, reduces downtime, keeps equipment working at optimal efficiency, and protects the company’s reputation. It’s worth the extra effort.
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