A Load of Pain: The Workplace Risks That Loading Dock Workers Face
Loading and receiving docks are designed to facilitate smooth and efficient handling of shipping materials. Most docks have three basic machines to ensure this process is as productive as possible—trucks, forklifts, and cargo lines. Unfortunately, malfunctions or miscalculations with any one of these three pieces of equipment can lead to spectacular consequences.
- Trucks. The majority of loading docks depend on semi trucks to deliver and receive cargo. This probably comes as no surprise. However, as with any truck, the potential for a collision is always possible. When it comes to loading docks, this risk is higher than normal as loading areas are located in specific locations and require drivers to back into them so that trailer doors can be accessed. As a result, in addition to common truck risks such as instability and cargo shifts, the driver must also place his focus on precisely maneuvering the trailer so it is flush with the dock’s bay door. Any miscalculation during this procedure can potentially cause the truck to jackknife, roll over, crush bystanders, or leave a dangerous gap between the trailer and door where loaders may fall or get stuck.
- Forklifts. When you’re working on a loading dock, you’ll commonly use forklifts to carry loads that are too large or heavy for a single person to handle. Although these lifts are helpful in preventing muscle strains and overexertion, they also greatly increase the chance of an accident. Forklifts can drive right off the loading dock due to driver error, mechanical failure, the weather, or because of the negligence of another person. Forklift operators are also at risk of “trailer creep,” which is caused by the lateral and vertical forces exerted every time a forklift enters and exits the truck. This causes the truck to slowly move away from the dock, resulting in separation from the dock leveler.
- Cargo lines. Cargo lines are basically conveyor belts on wheels. They’re stretched between the truck and loading area and are used as a transport system to easily move cargo in and out of the trailer. However, since a conveyor belt has moving parts, whether mechanical, spring loaded, or rotary, it has the potential to pinch and pull workers. Furthermore, when boxes and cargo move too fast, they can fall or crash into line workers, causing severe crush injuries and muscle sprains.
Unloading Your Risks
Though the risks are genuine, there are certain things that loading dock workers can do to avoid injury. These include:
- Securing the vehicles. Before loading and unloading, make sure to use vehicle restraints to secure trucks to the dock and forklifts away from the open bay doors.
- Maintaining a safe distance as the truck backs into the loading area. While the truck is maneuvering into position, make sure the area around the trailer is clear, and everyone in the docking area is at least ten feet from the door.
- Highlighting the danger zones. Use brightly colored paint to designate the dangerous areas around the dock.
- Maintaining a clean work environment. Try to keep all work surfaces clean and clear of any debris.
- Encouraging patience and safety. Make sure everyone around you knows not to push boxes too hard or too forcefully as it can hurt those around them.
- Maintaining all equipment. Make sure all equipment is in working order before you start the loading or unloading process. Routine inspections are also important to identify potential mechanical problems before they become accidents.
If you know someone who works on a loading dock, be sure to share this article with him! You might just help avoid a serious on-the-job accident. For more information on your legal options following a loading dock accident, contact our office directly by phone or email to schedule a complimentary sit-down with workers’ compensation attorney Steve Lee. He’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you decide whether pursuing an injury claim is in your best interest.