As a loading dock safety specialist, I default to a holistic approach to workplace safety. It’s more than self-justification, it’s that I can’t come up with an answer to the question, “Which of a long list of rare but awful things are you ok with happening to your co-workers at your place of work?”
For me the answer is, “None of them.”, and I look at every option to prevent workplace misery, workplace tragedy, and workplace disruption.
While keeping workers safe is reason enough to adopt a robust dock safety policy, it’s far from the only one. Almost any kind of accident at the loading dock is going to take a dock out of commission for some amount of time. And, as the gateway to the supply chain, an accident that takes a dock out of commission is going to be bad for business.
Whether for attention to injury, investigation, paperwork, clean up, or repair, a closed dock comes with a cost. The supply chain can’t supply without entry and exit points.
Even looking at several-year-old data, a loading dock closure has been shown to cost a company about $1700 per hour. And for serious accidents involving injury or major damage, the number can be significantly higher.
The good news is, that a comprehensive dock-safety strategy can protect your people and your business.
Safety first, but safety where?
Because forklifts and falls account for a hefty percentage of loading dock accidents, safety strategies have largely focused on inside-the-dock prevention. Even things like trailer restraints and dock levelers are protecting workers and drivers during loading and offloading inside the trailer.
However, it’s important to be aware that the area immediately outside the loading dock – the dock approach – is among the riskiest places for a worker to be. It’s not that the number of accidents is enormous, it’s that the nature of them tends to be dire.
For workers outside, truck traffic at the loading dock is life-threatening. Big rigs, trying to stay on schedule, are coming and going and reversing into tight dock positions with big blind spots. It takes only a brief lapse of attention, from either driver or pedestrian, for an accident to occur.
No Boots on the Ground®
There are legitimate reasons for a worker to be outside the loading dock. Still, the risk is enough of a concern that more and more businesses are adopting a policy requiring all vehicular traffic to come to a full stop when a worker is on the tarmac. The consequence, of course, is adding a delay to the already stressed movement of goods.
Another approach, one that is both safe and efficient, is to adopt a No Boots on the Ground® policy in the loading dock area. Adopting strategies to eliminate foot traffic in the area requires some planning and technology, but removing a major source of risk is worthy of the effort.
While trailer stands and supports are important safety precautions, they have typically required deployment by a worker at risk in the dock approach. New solutions like a stand/support that can be deployed by the shunt truck, or one that rises automatically into position with the push of a button, make a No Boots on Ground® environment possible.
Safety. It’s good for business.
Safety in business is good business. Protecting your people also protects the critical movement of goods and the supply chain itself. If it’s been a minute since your last safety audit, consider the benefits of a No Boots on the Ground® policy in your loading dock.
About the Author
Dirk Seis is the Director of Marketing at Ideal Warehouse Innovations, Inc., an IDA Member Company and manufacturer of dock safety accessories. In his 30+ years around docks, Dirk has helped customers improve the safety and efficiency of their loading docks, trained sales and installation teams across the continent, and helped develop new workplace safety solutions for the marketplace. Dirk can be reached at 905-265-4671 or [email protected].