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5 Loading Dock Safety Hazards to Avoid

5 Loading Dock Safety Hazards to Avoid

Truck freight is the backbone of the modern economy, carting more than 70% of the country’s products from one side of the country to the other. Loading docks are part of the job, but they can create a safety hazard if not addressed properly. Here are five common loading dock safety hazards and how you can avoid them moving forward.

1. Slips and Trips

In 2019, 27% of non-fatal work-related injuries were directly related to slips, trips, and falls. Anything from wet floors or oily surfaces to broken or unsecured dock plates can increase the risk of slips and falls in the workplace.

The easiest way to avoid these risks and the accompanying incidents is to ensure your loading docks are clean and well-maintained at all times. Oil or grease spills should be cleaned up quickly and marked with a cone. Broken dock plates should be repaired promptly and marked with cones until they can be repaired.

Water isn’t always avoidable, especially on rainy days. To counter the risk of slips and falls during wet weather, loading docks should be designed with surfaces that offer superior traction in both wet and dry conditions. Ensuring that everyone is wearing appropriate footwear on the job can also help reduce the risk of slips and falls if the dock is wet or icy.

2. Falling From Dock Edges

How easy would it be to walk out of your loading dock and, if you’re not paying attention, fall off the dock? A fall of a few feet might not seem that dangerous, but it can result in serious injury. If you fall poorly or have your hands full so you can’t catch yourself, it could even result in death. Preventing this sort of safety hazard comes in two different forms.

In areas that are actively in use, install rails, chains, or ropes to alert people to the edge and keep them from stepping off the edge. Edges should also be painted with bright colors so workers are always aware of the safety boundaries, even when working alongside the gap. Modular barriers, such as ropes or chains, can also be stretched across the entire dock to prevent falls when there isn’t a truck pulled up to the dock.

3. Improper Lifting/Carrying

A job in the logistics industry comes with a lot of heavy lifting, but doing it improperly could result in severe back injuries. According to information collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries account for about 20% of workplace injuries, with 80% of these incidents causing lasting damage to the lower back. Back injuries can be debilitating and are often degenerative, continuing to get worse if nothing changes and the injured individual keeps carrying out the same tasks.

Train your employees with proper lifting techniques and provide assistive technology whenever possible to reduce the number of items that workers are required to lift manually. You will need to remain constantly vigilant to ensure everyone is following the proper lifting techniques and reducing their chances of injury.

4. Careless Behavior

When a group of people works together for long periods, they become comfortable with one another. This isn’t a bad thing because this level of familiarity can help improve productivity and workplace efficiency, but it can also lead to careless behavior that can be dangerous. While you don’t want to discourage team-building exercises, the last thing you need is something that will increase the risk of injury in the workplace.

You don’t need to start with a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to careless behavior. Instead, start with training and communication. Ensure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are regarding workplace safety and their own behavior. Only resort to stricter policies if they prove necessary.

5. Carbon Monoxide Fumes

Both the trucks that haul the freight and the forklifts that unload it can all generate carbon monoxide fumes — and working close to these fumes can be hazardous. The solution to this is simple on paper but isn’t always so easy to implement in reality. The easiest way to avoid carbon monoxide exposure is to work in well-ventilated areas and keep engines off whenever possible.

In reality, though, sometimes you find yourself working in less-than-ideal conditions. Ensure ventilation is a priority — even if that means setting up fans or other tools to ensure there is plenty of airflow throughout the loading dock area.

Stay Safe On the Loading Dock

The logistics industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon, so it’s up to us to ensure everyone — from drivers to loaders, unloaders, and everyone in between — has what they need to stay safe. These hazards are some of the most common, but addressing each one will help keep everybody safe on the job.




Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, a construction and real estate resource. Her work on construction and equipment maintenance has been published by Facility Executive, Training Journal, and other industry publications.


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Ethan Smith
Ethan Smith
is the Content Manager at Trader Interactive, managing marketing content development for ATV Trader, Boatline, Commercial Truck Trader, Cycle Trader, Equipment Trader, RV Trader, and more. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to marketplace buyers and sellers.

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