Did you know that one of the most popular sources of warehouse injuries occurs from people walking through an open dock?
It's true - all of it.
Accidents in warehouse facilities involving people falling through an open dock and onto hard concrete is the source of broken of many injuries. Broken legs, ankles, back injuries, and in some tragic instances - even fatalities.
Closing the receiving dock door is the most obvious solution, right? Well, not always!
See, many daily activities including the hustle and bustle of summer make this task very difficult to accomplish. Often times these dock doors are left open for good reason. Whether it be to receive a constant influx of freight, or simply to keep the warehouse well-ventilated, there is always a good reason. Not to mention that opening these dock doors is not always the quickest procedure, and some carriers need to hurry up and offload the freight. The ability to pull up and offload as quickly as possible allows them to get to their next drop on-time. They can't always wait around for someone to open the warehouse to them.
Sure, opening the doors isn't usually a huge hassle. But having them open already can indeed shave off those precious extra few minutes.
With that being said, let's explore 4 of the most simple ways that warehousing facilities can reduce the potential of injuries due to open receiving dock doors.
What is an Open Dock?
For those who are not aware, an open receiving dock is defined as a dock with a door that is opened but does not have a trailer assigned to it.
An open dock can be a temporary issue while trucks are offloading and staging. But if left unattended it poses a huge safety hazard. When there is no trailer attached to an open dock, there is typically a 4-foot drop, that leads to hard concrete or asphalt. All it takes is for a worker to lose their focus for a split second and accidentally step out the dock door.
When that happens, it can result in injuries, fatalities, and the warehouse potentially facing legal ramifications.
Why Do Warehouses Leave the Receiving Dock Door Open?
Most warehouse facilities host large open spaces. Needless to say, that is a whole lot of surface area to keep cool. This is especially true when battling the heat of the summer season.
This alone is a major reason why several warehouse facilities without premium air conditioning leave a dock door open. Some warehouses even place an industrial fan at the mouth of an open dock to improve air circulation.
In other instances, the dock is simply left open while trucks or trailers are preparing to offload or load freight. For extremely active warehouses, this can sometimes equate to a receiving dock door being left open all day long.
What are OSHA Regulations About Open Dock Doors?
With thousands of warehouses located across the United States and each of them with loading docks, OSHA has something to say about open dock doors.
They maintain that any open receiving dock door that has a drop of more than 4 feet, must be protected by a barrier. However, like most government regulations, there are several exceptions. These exceptions basically equate to needing little or no protection.
As a result, simply complying with OSHA regulations is not enough. In order to protect employees and warehouse visitors from falling through one of these dock doors, additional precautions need to be observed.
Here are 4 guidelines that we recommend all warehouses observe a bit more closely. These may seem like very basic guidelines, and they indeed are just that; basic. However, if followed, they can easily save a life.
Install Safety Chains
There is an easy way to reduce the potential of people falling through an open dock door. Simply install a safety chain or net that can be quickly deployed when the door is not in use!
Many companies now use a chain-based system in their warehouses. Receiving dock employees just secure it across an open dock door when trucks are leaving or still preparing to offload. As soon as the truck is finished, an employee simply attaches the chain which blocks access to the door.
When a new truck arrives, and the dock door is occupied, the chain is removed and receiving activity can commence.
These safety chains are usually painted in a bright color such as a neon orange or green. This helps to draw attention to their presence.
Another quick and easy way to ensure warehouse employees or visitors are aware of a potentially open dock door is to paint the floor surrounding the area. A bright yellow is the preferred color to apply there.
Floor markings accompanied by signage provide ample notifications that a safety hazard exists.
Many open dock injuries occur during early morning or evening operations.
Some of these accidents in warehouses are due to poor lighting. Saving money on the electric bill is never an excuse to compromise the safety of employees. While a receiving dock door should always be closed if not being used, a busy receiving dock has difficulty accomplishing this. For facilities that operate their receiving dock at night, investing in ample lighting in the receiving area is crucial.
And lastly, but certainly not least; safety!
Without question, the easiest and less expensive thing that any warehouse can do is to teach and practice safety daily. Making sure to allow access to receiving dock areas 2 trained or authorized employees only can significantly reduce the potential of this type of accident.