The act of loading and unloading a trailer forces the forklift operator to interact with another piece of equipment (trailer) and another human (truck driver), which increases safety risks and hazards.
Dock Safety: Common Hazards
- Trucks and trailers can creep away from docks while loading and unloading due to the weight and force of the forklift.
- Trailer floors can be weak or damaged.
- Dock levelers or bridge plates can malfunction or break.
- Trailers can be tipped by the weight of the forklift if they are not connected to a tractor.
It is also important the forklift operator be aware of the truck driver. The fast pace and pressure to deliver loads can result in drivers prematurely pulling away from docks with a forklift inside. Other times, an operator may drive off the dock if he or she expects the trailer to be in place.
Dock Safety: Safe Forklift Operation
In addition to setting the brakes on the truck, forklift operators must not drive fast or get aggressive with the forklift brakes inside a trailer. If an operator quickly enters a truck and slams on the brakes, the weight of the forklift and its load will move a trailer even if the truck brakes are set and the wheel chocks are in place. Dock locking systems cannot be trusted blindly since rear impact guards (ICC bars) on trailers can be damaged or missing.
Moveable rear trailer axles must be in the most rearward position. If the operator loads or unloads a dropped trailer, he or she must use a jack stand to support the front of the trailer.
Elevated dock areas pose potential for forklift tip-over, the leading cause of operator fatality. Forklift operators must look backwards to guide them out of the trailer and not rely on peripheral vision. If he or she waits to look back after hearing the forklift’s steer tires hit the dock plate, the operator may not be aware the truck has left the dock and will fall off the truck or a pedestrian walking behind the trailer may be struck.
Dock Safety: Implement Safety Procedures
Companies can take control of dock safety by having the proper safety equipment and strategies. A squeegee can remove the hazard of a wet dock area. A push broom used where wheel chocks are expected to block wheels can decrease trailer creep. Policies to control truck drivers such as assigned waiting areas, required possession of the truck keys while loading and unloading, and glad hand locks can reduce premature pull-away.
ProLift can help you with dock equipment and planned maintenance. Contact a storage & handling specialist to schedule an on-site evaluation.