5 Simple Ways to Improve Loading Dock Safety & Efficiency

5 Simple Ways to Improve Loading Dock Safety & Efficiency

The transportation and warehousing industry is the second-most dangerous job in the U.S., according to the latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Only construction workers have a higher rate of fatal work injuries.

Managers want their workplace to be incident-free, but many struggle with budget constraints. That’s why we put together a list of ways to improve loading dock safety (many improve efficiency too). The list includes ideas for budgets both large and small.

Why focus on loading dock safety?

Loading Dock Safety Products Maximize Your ROI

Imagine you manage a pro sports team. Your offense is great, but the team loses a lot of games because of weak defense. What would you do? You’d ask your coach to focus on D, maybe add some tougher players to your roster, etc.

For most operations, the loading dock is a weak point in their defense. More than 25 percent of incidents occur at the loading dock, and for every accident, there are about 600 near misses. That’s why any investment in loading dock safety is money well spent. Here are a few products safety experts recommend:

#1 Wheel Chocks  

A forklift fall-through is one of the most expensive and tragic accidents that can occur at your loading dock. According to the BLS, when a forklift falls from one level to another (such as from the loading dock to the ground below), the operator is 250 percent more likely to die than be injured.

Forklift fall-through typically occurs when a trailer is being loaded or unloaded. A gap forms between the trailer and the dock leveler (due to trailer creep or other factors) and the forklift falls through the gap. Injury or death occurs when the operator is crushed by the weight of their forklift.

Wheel chocks help prevent forklift fall-through incidents by preventing trailer creep. You can buy wheel chocks made from aluminum, rubber, plastic, steel, or urethane. We sell a popular aluminum wheel chock with rugged bottom cleats and a serrated top for extra tire grip. 

#2 Trailer Lock System

Wheel chocks are an effective solution when used correctly. EHS Today notes wheel chocks are often used improperly, which leaves your operation vulnerable to a horrific accident. For example:

  • Your dock employee assumes the truck driver will set their own wheel chocks, while the truck driver assumes the dock employee will do it. In the end, no one sets the wheel chocks.
  • A busy, untrained, or careless employee simply drops the chucks in front of the tires without taking the time to set them snugly against each tire.

The average cost of a forklift fall-through incident is $191,000
($41,000 average worker injury medical cost + $75,000 forklift + $75,000 building repair) = $191,000.

If you don’t want to leave safety to chance, a trailer lock system is a more reliable way to prevent fall-through accidents.  The trailer lock system we sell:

  • Installs directly in front of the loading dock - either in the wall or on the ground
  • The electric hydraulic system captures the trailer’s rear impact guard (aka ICC bar) 
  • An accumulator secures the trailer even as it moves up and down while being loaded/unloaded
  • The draw pull shear strength is 22,500 lbs. per foot

An exterior traffic light outside shows the status of the restraint. When the truck driver sees the red light, that’s a clear signal to stay put. A significant percentage of forklift fall-through accidents occur when the driver pulls away from the dock prematurely - easily rolling over wheel chocks that weren’t set properly.

A trailer lock may also help you save money on insurance. Because trailer locks are a proven, effective way to prevent one of the most terrifying (and expensive) loading dock incidents, many insurance companies reward customers who invest in this type of vehicle restraint. 

#3 Trailer Stabilizing Jacks

When a trailer is disconnected from its tractor, it can tip forward or sink into soft ground (aka upending). Stabilizing jacks can prevent trailers from toppling over and are also useful for leveling out trailers parked on sloped or uneven ground.  

When shopping for trailer stabilizing jacks, look for a set:

  • Made of high strength steel 
  • That use a flush-type zerk fitting
  • With a reflective collar for improved visibility at night
  • Designed to meet OSHA regulations 

#4 Electric Hydraulic Scissor Lift Tables

Repetitive motion and back injuries are all too common for workers in the distribution, manufacturing and/or processing industry. Ergonomic equipment, such as electric hydraulic scissor lift tables, are proven to reduce injuries and improve productivity. 

A scissor lift table reduces repetitive strain and back injuries by putting the load in the worker’s “power zone.” Instead of moving product from one plane to another (horizontal + vertical lifting), a scissor lift table only requires the worker to move product horizontally.

If your employees manually load/unload trailers or pallets, a scissor lift table is a smart investment. You can:

  • Reduce cycle times and pallet loading and unloading times by as much as 40 percent
  • Improve efficiency and profits by minimizing injury potentials while you increase productivity
  • Most operations can reduce the number of employees dedicated to loading and unloading shipments

We have hydraulic scissor lift tables for sale in a variety of sizes, heights, and capacities. 

#5 Expand-A-Gates

Interlocking, collapsible barriers are a simple way to keep staff safe. You can quickly deploy them at an incident site or at your loading dock to prevent falls. 

  • Limit access to unsafe areas or equipment
  • Quick and easy set-up
  • Choose from sturdy plastic or heavy-duty steel
  • Multiple gates can be connected end-to-end

Loading Dock Safety Is Always a Smart Investment

Whether you have a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to spend, loading dock safety products are the best way to maximize your safety budget. Many will help you improve productivity too.

Questions? Our experienced and friendly safety experts can help you choose the best safety products for your application. Contact The Lilly Company online or by phone (800-238-3006) with any questions you may have. You can also visit one of our 13 locations across the Mid-South.

Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi - Tupelo and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis

Further Reading:
5 Money-Saving Warehouse Safety Products
Warehouse Services We Offer
Warehouse Products We Sell

Learn More about Warehouse Solutions: Make your business more efficient and prodcutive

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