Investing in a few simple safety measures could safeguard both personnel and equipment, reducing accidents, and thus avoiding any possible costly personal injury claims, as well as saving companies expensive repair bills and disruptive downtime.
Market-leading loading and unloading equipment specialists Thorworld Industries Ltd offers a comprehensive range of safety aids and accessories, all designed to provide a safer, more productive working environment and to help fulfil some of the statutory health and safety obligations, where failure to comply could lead to a serious fine.
According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures, last year there were 180 fatalities in the workplace. Of these, nearly 60 per cent were caused by falls from height, being struck by moving vehicles, moving or falling objects, or becoming trapped by something that collapsed or overturned. Given that all these accidents can occur in and around the loading bay, it is clear that this can be a very hazardous place to work.
John Meale, Managing Director of Thorworld Industries, Vice President of FEM – the European Materials Handling Federation – and President of its Elevating Equipment Product Group, said: "With ever more stringent requirements it makes sense to implement a positive health and safety programme. Failure to provide employees with a safe working environment can result in personnel accidents, with possible personal injury claims, and equipment damage, as well as leading to fines of up to £20,000 and even a jail sentence – so cutting corners on safety could prove extremely costly in more ways than one.
"One of the most common causes of accidents in the loading bay is from vehicle creep, where a lorry either drifts slightly away from the loading dock or, in the worst case scenario, the driver moves off before warehouse operatives have actually finished loading or unloading the vehicle."
Thorworld provides a wide range of products to prevent vehicle creep. The simplest and perhaps most affordable solutions are wheel chocks, which are positioned in front of the wheels to stop movement.
There are four standard Thorworld Chock-it® wheel chock types, including moulded rubber versions, which are available in a variety sizes, together with cast aluminium and steel models. For enhanced safety, a special cast aluminium wheel chock with a built-in movement switch is available, which can be linked to other devices such as traffic lights, dock levellers, a Dockloada lifting platform and doors, and instantly alerts staff if any vehicle movement is detected.
A method of preventing unintentional pull-aways is via a trailer safety lock which is fitted to a parked trailer once the air hose has been disconnected; this then prevents the driver connecting the trailer and driving away. It is available with either a padlock or small barrel locking device.
"Of course, none of these products on their own can fully account for the possibility of human error," said John Meale, "so good visual and audible communication systems such as internal/external traffic lights can also be vital in letting drivers know when it is safe to back up to a loading dock and, perhaps more importantly, when it is safe to drive away – whilst at the same time informing warehouse personnel of the situation."
Thorworld offers four traffic light systems, Standard, Deluxe, Deluxe LED and Super Deluxe. They can be used with a wheel chock incorporating a built-in movement switch, with a manual on/off switch, or in conjunction with an automatic sensor.
And for the ultimate in vehicle and personnel safety, Thorworld offers the vehicle wheel lock, which not only prevents accidents during loading and unloading but also reduces the possibility of vehicle theft. It engages the rear tyre, with an integral steel barrier that pulls the vehicle firmly against the loading dock bumpers, preventing it from moving. A built-in sensor is linked to an audio-visual communication system outside the building, with internal lights which signal whether the trailer is fully engaged or not. A microprocessor control system means it can be interlocked to doors, levellers and other equipment for enhanced levels of safety.
"However, vehicle creep isn’t the only hazard in the loading bay," explained John Meale. "Most trailers are not equipped with internal lighting, so it’s a good idea to fit dock lights to improve visibility. Otherwise, operatives entering the vehicle from a brightly lit warehouse can struggle to adjust to the change in conditions and may not see potential hazards, causing injury to themselves or potentially damaging goods."
Thorworld’s Standard dock light features a pivoting 100W tungsten halogen lamp and hinged arm extending along two planes to a maximum reach of 900mm. The Standard Plus dock light operates in a similar manner, but has a maximum reach of 1060mm, allowing the light to be accurately positioned for maximum illumination. It features full metal guards to protect against theft and breakages and is available as either a 240V unit with an 80W halogen bulb or 110V unit with a 50W halogen bulb. When not in use, the dock lights can be swung to one side of the doorway.
It’s also worth remembering that forklift trucks are involved in around 24 per cent of workplace transport accidents, whilst falls from height accounted for 35 fatalities during 2008/09. Dock safety guards are therefore essential to help prevent fork trucks, pallet trucks and personnel from falling off a loading dock.
Thorworld’s Dockprotecta® range of dock loading safety equipment includes the dock safety guard, which is a retractable guard to prevent fork trucks, pallet trucks and personnel falling from an open loading dock when not in use. It has been designed to stop a weight of four and a half tonnes travelling at up to 4 miles per hour, with little or no damage to the safety barrier. Operated manually, it is extremely simple and easy to use and can fit across openings of up to 3 metres wide. The unique ‘pocket’ design of the guard posts keeps the barrier out of harms way during loading and unloading.
Another hazard – and possibly, one of the most dangerous – is when a trailer, without its cab, tips forward. This can happen if the standard landing legs fail, if the vehicle has been loaded incorrectly or, when empty, it becomes unbalanced when a loaded forklift truck is driven into it. Preventing this is easy thanks to the Thorworld trailer safety support.
The trailer safety support is designed to provide additional support under the fifth wheel of a parked container, without a cab, during loading and unloading. The screw mechanism allows the jack to be adjusted within a height range of between 1070 and 1350mm. Thorworld offers two weight capacities, 26,500kg for normal applications and 36,500kg for abnormal applications such as military equipment.
"Most warehouse operatives and many lorry drivers themselves don’t realize that a trailer can tip forward. In fact, my own members of staff were doubtful that it could occur until a lorry visiting a warehouse on a nearby industrial estate tipped forward due to an uneven load and we were called in to help. Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but this costly experience could have been prevented simply by using one of our trailer safety supports," John Meale added.
Thorworld provides a one-stop, single source for a wide range of high quality loading and unloading equipment, loading bay accessories and safety aids, such as: dock shelters and seals, dock levellers, modular loading docks, dock plates and boards, dock and vehicle bumpers, wheel chocks van and personnel access ramps, wheel guides and alignment curbs, and mobile loading ramps (for purchase or rental, on a sale or return basis, from the company’s RentARamp division), as well as the Truckloada® mobile loading platform and the Dockloada® scissor lift platform.