Material Handling and Loading Dock Safety 101

Material Handling Safety Demonstrated
Material Handling Safety Demonstrated

Loading docks are busy areas for material handling, with many people going in and out. Packaging, lift trucks, pallet wrap systems, and other types of industrial equipment are often found nearby.  Because of the high-level of activity that occurs around loading docks, and the speed of which people are trying to load and unload trucks, there are a number of ways workers can be injured.  We will take a look at these situations, and the way injuries can be prevented.

The first way workers can be injured at a loading dock is when movement occurs with the weight transfer of goods during loading and unloading. This is also known as “trailer drop”, and is responsible for many chronic neck and back injuries. Depending on weight, the bed of a trailer can actually drop nearly 8 inches while goods are being loaded in or out of the truck. This movement can put significant strain on a lift truck operator. Using stabilizing restraints on the trailer which stops movement, either horizontally or vertically, can prevent this.

Another way injuries can occur is through jarring, or “dock shock”.  Forklift operators frequently experience this type of vibration as they cross over old-style dock levelers, which are placed between the floor of the warehouse and the bed of the trailer.  Purchasing a leveler that allows for a smooth path without gaps, or bumps, will significantly reduce the amount of jarring that occurs as your lift truck operator crosses it.

The third loading dock hazard occurs when the dock is actually vacant. There is a significant drop between the loading dock level and the ground, which makes it very dangerous should a forklift accidentally fall off. Loading docks are also high risk areas for both pedestrians and pallet jack operators.  Installing a steel barrier which automatically goes into position after the trailer is unloaded, is a great piece of safety equipment.

A fourth danger that can occur on loading docks is trailer separation. This happens when a trailer becomes separated from the loading dock as goods are being loaded or unloaded. This can be extremely dangerous for workers and can also result in damaged goods. Therefore, an essential piece of safety equipment is a vehicle restraint, which will prevent separation from occurring.

A fifth dangerous hazard at loading docks is fire. Semi trailers have hot lights, and if they come into contact with flammable material a fire can occur.  Investing in advanced technology for dock seals means that heat can be dissipated through a multiple layer foil which is incorporated into all parts of the dock seal.

A sixth way that loading docks can be hazardous is through accidents involving the doors. Loading dock doors are a significant part of your industrial equipment inventory, so they should have sensors and detection systems included.

Loading docks can be made safe environments for your lift truck operators, other employees and pedestrians, simply by being aware of these potential hazards and the safety equipment that is available to prevent them.

About the Author
Bahrns Equipment specializes in industrial equipment for industrial needs, such as forklifts, packaging and material handling. Visit the company online at to learn more about what they offer, and see how they can become your industrial supplier of choice.

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