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How To Maintain Safety At The Loading Dock

The loading dock is a place of business. The cargo is the product. A big part of the freight industry is the loading process, even if truck drivers are not the ones who are doing the loading or unloading themselves. Truckers spend a lot of time at loading docks, and with that comes the need to know how to navigate. Safety comes first, but there are also a few ways to ensure the job is done right and in less time. The loading dock is a common place for drivers to get stuck, so make sure you know how to navigate it well.  There are a few key loading dock guidelines which can help truckers stay safe.

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When handling cargo, the loading and unloading process is just as important as the safety of the cargo that is being transported. In order to ensure shipments remain in its original condition, without any damage to cargo, driver or the truck; following protocol while securing your truck and trailer is key.  

Use Trailer Restraint Systems

In order to safely load or unload, you want to make sure the truck is stabilized first. Chocking your wheels into place is an essential first step. Engage any restraint systems and make sure the truck is parked, with brakes activated, in order to begin the loading or unloading process. The restraints also ensure that the driver does not drive off and forget their trailer, which has happened to plenty of truckers in our day and age.

Remember that the force of loading and unloading repeatedly can cause a trailer to shift slowly over a period of time, causing risk. So check and maintain your restraints at regular intervals.

Remain Alert

It is important to know what is going on around you during the loading and unloading process, even if you are not the one who is doing the heavy lifting. Communicate with loading dock workers and those around you, so that you can stay informed, even though it can be a frustrating process at times when schedules collide.

Sometimes, loading docks can get overwhelming and things change last minute, so awareness of your environment is key. You want to read any signs around you and follow the guidelines laid out. The rules are in place for protection, so often dock workers may need drivers to remain in certain areas in order to ensure safety. Be aware of pedestrians or whatever else may be going on around you as well.

Wear Proper Attire

You want to make sure you have quality shoes and gloves, or any eye protection you may need. The area around  loading docks has debris and trash likely on the floor, among weather related matter, so you want to be sure that you are not walking around and causing risk to yourself. Closed-toe footwear is necessary, if you are getting out of the truck.

Use Proper Safety Equipment

There are numerous pieces of equipment which can make the cargo loading process easier and safer. You may want to place mirrors strategically to where you can see more of the process and how to safely load the cargo. Utilize dock plates or boards to ensure there are no gaps or others don’t have to step down or up in order for loading to occur. The dock plates should have minimum 8 inches in overlap at each end, if they are positioned correctly.

You may get familiar with using dock levelers to close the gap between trailer and dock, if they are different heights. Another reason you may want to use these is because as cargo is moved onto trucks the weight gets heavier so moving down a bit can be beneficial, while moving up during unloading can help remain stability of the trailer and dock.  Research which leveler may work for you, as mechanical levelers have more risks than hydraulic ones.

You also want to make sure your trailer is well lit, for the process to take place as safely as possible.

Watch For Debris

Loading docks generally can have a lot of moving parts and a lot of debris left behind. Sometimes there is packing material, or if weather is unstable there can be rain puddles or other bits on the floor area, so make sure it is clear for loading and that you are aware of potentially slippery surfaces around you.

Follow Proper Procedure

Dock workers usually have training for handling matters at the dock, but drivers often have other things to think about when it comes to their own stressful job, so there could be issues with understanding at times. Be sure to follow the rules of the dock, as likely drivers spend only a short period of time there, while the dock workers are there all day. You want to make sure that for cargo, the right hand cart or lift truck is used. Drivers need to bend at the knees if lifting and do not lift any skids or pallets alone, as this can cause injury or strain.  You should use lifting straps and any handling equipment you are trained to use. Any spills need to be reported right away.

Loading docks can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect makes a difference. The most dangerous thing to happen in a dock is when you don’t know what is happening around you. Safe loading docks are essential for every truck driver. The key to keeping your truck safe and loaded is knowing how to safely load it. So whether you are the one loading the cargo or not, knowing how to navigate the dock is going to make your job much easier.

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