Mark James (pictured), Thorworld’s Health & Safety Manager, used his address to outline key hazards, suggest solutions and advise on relevant and applicable standards and directives for loading and unloading equipment.
"The vehicle loading and unloading area is potentially one of the most hazardous areas in any company, warehouse or distribution centre," explains Mark James. "Without a robust safety strategy, this area is ‘an accident waiting to happen.’
"Nonetheless, it requires only the use of some simple, low-cost and highly effective safety aids to ensure that you are loading and unloading with confidence," he adds.
Amongst the areas that Thorworld highlighted was the scope for operators or fork lifts to fall where there exists a height variation and/or a horizontal gap – and the various bridging devices (such as dock levelers, scissor lift tables or yardramps) and essential accessories including gates and handrails that can be used to protect against this.
Movement of vehicles is another area that must be carefully controlled to avoid trapping or crushing operators, or prevent fork lifts falling off the back of trailers. Thorworld detailed the preventative options available, from wheel chocks, vehicle restraints and air locks to complex key removal protocols.
Weather can have an adverse effect on safety, from slippage caused by water ingress to health effects suffered by employees from extreme operating temperatures. Mark’s talk advised how the strategic use of dock seals and shelters can help warehouse managers to meet many of their ‘duty of care’ requirements.
Nonetheless, there is no better prevention than putting a robust system in place that integrates many or all of the above possibilities. Thorworld explained how investment throughout the loading and unloading area – down to the installation of traffic lights and alarm sirens – can engender an effective and safe operating environment.
Thorworld also took the opportunity to remind delegates of the importance of ensuring that equipment is compliant with appropriate safety standards. This was an aspect that generated much interest from delegates, especially when the company pointed out the risks of using non-compliant goods.
"At the moment, market surveillance simply isn’t in place to prevent potentially unsafe equipment entering the market, so it’s vital that purchasers use only reputable suppliers," confirms Mark James.
The basic source of information for Mark’s presentation was taken from the European Federation of Materials Handling F.E.M. Guideline "Safety in and around the Loading and unloading areas," to which Mark was a contributor.