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What kind of training do loading dock workers need?

By Jessica Barrett | Last updated: June 18, 2022
Presented by AD Safety Network

The loading dock is one of the most dangerous areas in a warehouse. About a quarter of all industrial accidents happen there – and for every one of those, there are about 600 near misses. It is also estimated that forklifts, motorized pallet jacks, or lift trucks cause more than 100,000 injuries every year.

(Learn about 5 Simple Ways to Prevent Injuries Around Open Loading Docks)

Despite these risks, there is no formal training required for workers to carry out tasks on the loading dock. The exception is lift truck operators, who must be trained and certified. There is, however, plenty of worksite-specific training that every loading dock worker should be well versed in, even if they never go near a forklift.


Some of the responsibilities of loading dock workers include:

  • Preparing docks for incoming freight
  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Using material handling equipment like forklifts, hand trucks, pallet jacks, and cranes
  • Housekeeping around the dock area

Given these responsibilities and their associated risks, here are four of the most important things the training should cover.

1. Common Loading Dock Hazards and Hazard-Causing Behaviors

The five hazards most commonly found in and around loading docks can be abbreviated as FACTS:

  • Forklifts (and other motorized vehicles) – Safety around pedestrians, dock edges, daily inspections
  • Attention and alertness – Awareness of the dangers of fatigue and how to stay safe in a fast-paced environment
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) – An understanding of the risks associated with the CO emissions from trucks and what to do if the CO alarm sounds
  • Trailer creep – The importance of wheel chocking and how to ensure trailers are properly secured
  • Slips, trips, and falls – Identifying slip, trip, and fall hazards and the housekeeping practices that minimize them

Training should cover what the hazards are, why they should be taken seriously, and what to do about them. To ensure maximum compliance with safety rules and safe working procedures, workers need to not only know safe working procedures but also understand why they matter.

2. The Correct Use of PPE

It may be the last line of defense against loading dock hazards, but PPE still needs to be taken very seriously.

Workers need to understand what equipment they need, when they need to use it, and how to use it properly. Common PPE used on the loading dock includes hi-vis safety vests, gloves, safety boots, and eye and ear protection.

3. Keeping Pedestrians Safe

Lift trucks and trailers are common in warehouses and they often work alongside people on foot. Training for dock workers who operate lift trucks should cover how to protect the pedestrians around them. This can include the use of barriers, effective communication methods, as well as tips to ensure that anyone working on foot can remain alert at all times.

(See A Primer on Forklift Hang Signals for more details)

4. Emergency Protocols and Procedures

Workers should be aware of the location of emergency equipment and the right way to use it. This includes fire extinguishers, spill kits, first aid kits, eyewash stations, and alarms.

Workers should also be taught to ensure that loading or unloading activities never interfere with emergency egress routes. This includes being mindful of where boxes are stacked, pallets are placed, and lift trucks are parked.

All workers should understand what to do in case of an emergency. Training should include both what to do and who to talk to, since communication and a clear chain of command are critical during an emergency.

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Written by Jessica Barrett

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Jessica is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in creating content for nonprofits and has written for organizations working in human rights, conservation, education, and health care. She loves traveling and food, speaks Spanish, and has two dogs, one of whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

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