I was on the afternoon shift yesterday and when I got there the loading dock was a total mess. Boxes placed just anywhere, broken pallets, overflowing garbage bins. It would've just taken one worker not watching their step for that debris to cause an accident.
It’s no secret that the loading dock is one of the most dangerous areas in a warehouse. It’s the place that workers, boxes of product, and lift trucks converge – and it’s generally incredibly busy. That’s why it’s so important to conduct regular inspections, which can help to proactively identify concerns and prevent accidents.
But what should you look for during a loading dock inspection? We’ve broken it down to help you get started.
For the safety of all employees, it’s essential that the general work areas are kept neat and free of clutter.
Inspections should focus on housekeeping procedures to ensure there are no slip, trip, and fall hazards (find out Why Housekeeping Is an Important Part of Loading Dock Safety).
- Passages and doorways are free of clutter
- Emergency exits are clear and easily accessible
- Blind corners have mirrors
- Handrails and guardrails are in good condition
- Stairways and ramps are well maintained and free of snow, ice, debris, and obstructions
- Spills and puddles are cleaned up immediately
- Floors are swept daily and washed regularly
- First aid kit is stocked and easily accessible (see First Aid Kits: The Essential List for advice on what to stock)
It’s not uncommon for workers to experience back and shoulder injuries. These are largely due to improper lifting technique during manual material handling.
When machines are used to move product, it’s critical to ensure they have appropriate safety devices and are inspected prior to use.
- Products are stored properly and stacked safely to prevent tips
- Stacked materials are at least 18 inches below sprinkler heads
- Employees use proper lifting technique to prevent injury
- Lifting equipment is in good condition and circle checks are conducted prior to each use
- Motorized equipment has lights, horn, emergency brake, operator manual, and safety checklist
From open docks to trailer creep to communication issues, the hazards lurking on the loading bay are numerous.
Inspections should focus on ensuring proper procedures are both in place and in practice, and that the conditions of the dock are such that workers can do their job safely.
- Truck engines are turned off during loading and unloading
- Trailer wheel chocks are used to prevent movement during loading and unloading
- Communication procedures are in place for loading and unloading
- Warning signs or lights are in use (if applicable)
- Dock bumpers are in good condition
- Area is properly lit, both in and outside trailers
- Dock levelers are in good condition and used properly (if applicable)
- Wood pallets are properly stored
- Dock is free of accumulated cargo
- Unused bays are closed or guarded by a safety railing
Notes for Employers and Workers
Maintaining a safe loading dock atmosphere isn’t the responsibility of any one individual. While a supervisor may be in charge of the daily inspection, it’s important that every team member – from entry-level workers to warehouse management – pitches in to help.
What does this mean?
- If you spot a hazard, either take care of it or bring it to the attention of a supervisor
- Clean up after yourself – leaving cardboard or broken pallets around can lead to serious injury
- Take five to ten minutes at the end of your shift to ensure things are in good order for the next crew
- Participate fully in training sessions to ensure you understand practices and procedures for maintaining a safe loading dock
- Hold regular safety meetings and seek employee feedback on a consistent basis to ensure continuous improvement
Regular inspections aren’t just a formality – they can make the hazard-ridden loading dock a much safer place for workers to spend their shift.
It’s important to remember that this list is just a starting point. Take a look around your loading dock and identify hazards that could pose risks to employees. Then, create your own customized safety checklist to use during your daily inspection.