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Loading bays are hazardous; but they don’t have to be

Author : Edward Wilks of sara Loading Bay Systems

26 May 2010

Loading bays are accepted as one of the most hazardous areas of any company’s operations, with an estimated 25% of all factory and warehouse accidents occurring in that area. This is not surprising when one considers the volume of traffic using loading bays, combined with the human element and the pressures to turn goods around quickly.

Loading bays are hazardous; but they don’t have to be
Loading bays are hazardous; but they don’t have to be

The substantial risks inherent in loading bay operation mean that regular risk assessments need to be undertaken to ensure that safety procedures are fit –for- purpose to prevent accidents. In addition, personnel working within the dock need to be properly trained in the use of all equipment employed in the dock, and a system of safe working practices must be thoroughly integrated into the day-to-day working practices of dock operation.

Of the two types of loading bays: flat (ground level) and raised dock loading, the latter obviously provides the greater potential for accidents to occur. The fact that the dock is raised means that distracted personnel can easily fall off it, sustaining substantial injury; while even more severe injuries can be sustained by unwary fork lift truck drivers, if barriers are not used to shut off the vacant dock when it is not in use.

In the case of the flat loading bay, fork lift trucks will raise goods from floor level into the trailer. This seems straightforward; but what about personnel in the immediate vicinity of the loading? Does the company have a working set practice to cover this operation? For example, what personnel, if any, are allowed into the loading area during the loading operation? Secondly, what about the trailer driver? Is he out of harm’s way – and how do we know this? What is obvious in today’s highly pressurised operating regime is that there is always the temptation to cut costs; so the tighter the operating procedures and the closer they are enforced the better.

One particular hazard resulting from pressurised operation on loading bays is unplanned trailer departure. The driver drives off because he thinks he is clear to go, and is in a hurry to get to his next drop. The results of this can be very serious, with possible serious injury to loading personnel, and extensive damage to the loading bay, and to the trailer/vehicle itself.

The remedy for this problem is to install a traffic management system. The traffic light system provides a clear system of communication, which is essential to prevent harm to loading bay operators, when lorries are backing into loading bays, for example.

The traffic light system works by using the control system of the loading bay door to interlock with the dock leveller. This ensures that the driver knows when it is safe to pull off the dock, and when it is not. Coupled with high reliability, high visibility LED traffic lights, this is one of the more commonly used safety systems in place.

The second major area to consider in the loading bay is powered loading bay doors. In order to conform to legislation on the admissible forces for vertical closing doors, most companies utilise a "Contact Safety Edge". This means that if the safety edge strikes a person or object it will stop and return to the open position.

In today’s world where litigation is often the first rather than the final resort, sara Loading Bay Specialists provides a solution to this problem with a range of doors which have the unique "Non Contact sara Safety Beam". This patented design, credited by numerous safety awards, incorporates a special transmitter/receiver that travels ahead of the door’s bottom rail. Any solid obstruction entering this area will stop the door and reverse it automatically to the fully open safe position, ensuring no damage to personnel or goods by contact.

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