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Dock Safety: Closing the Gap Reduces Forklift Accidents

Tip-over accidents are by far the most common cause of workplace injuries among forklift operators. And the most common cause of tip-over accidents is the gap that exists between a dock and truck, trailer, or railroad car it is loading or unloading.

Left unsecured, vehicles parked at the dock can move or shift, either by accident or because the driver unintentionally drove away. If this occurs while a forklift is between the dock the vehicle, it can be a fatal mistake -- even if a dock board is being used to fill the gap.

Securing Vehicles to the Dock

One of the best ways to eliminate this risk is to require drivers to chock their rear wheels whenever they park their vehicles at your dock. Consistently applying this rule will ensure trucks can't drift away from the dock or accidentally drive away.

Having a driveway that is pitched at an angle towards the dock can instill a false sense of security among forklift operators. While the angle will help prevent trailer drift, it offers no protection against drive-offs.

Another way to neutralize this threat is to secure the trailer to the dock using a vehicle restraint system that is mounted to the dock. These chains or wires clamp onto a bar below the trailer as it backs into position and automatically signals when the restraint is engaged or if the truck starts to move.

Freestanding Trailers

In some cases, trailers will be left at the dock without having a tractor attached. In these instances, the trailer jacks should be engaged to prevent the trailer from tipping upward when the heavy forklift drives onto its back end while loading or unloading.

Similarly, portable dock boards also can shift. Many feature pins that are inserted into the sides and hang out below the board to prevent it from moving. Care needs to be taken to avoid taking shortcuts by not using these pins.

Plus, portable dock boards need to have handholds or lugs that allow the forklift operator to pick it up with their vehicle. This helps prevent the crushed fingers or toes or back injuries that frequently occur when dock plates are picked up by hand.

Alert dock employees of the dock's edge by painting it bright yellow or with alternating black and yellow stripes. It's also a good idea to consider installing a bull rail that prevents forklift wheels from slipping off the sides of ramps or dock edges.