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Supply Chain Safety: Loading Docks, Trucking, and Last Mile

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

National Forklift Safety Day is June 8 and, while the day was established to bring awareness to forklift-related safety issues, it’s a great time to refresh your knowledge of important safety guidelines across the supply chain. From regulations to best practices, safety is always improving. To get the latest on forklift safety, attend the Industrial Truck Association’s (ITA) free virtual conference. For safety updates on other areas of the supply chain, read on.

Loading dock safety

Products enter and exit a facility via the loading dock, and the use of heavy equipment makes the area particularly dangerous. Although about 25 percent of warehouse injuries occur on the loading dock, many accidents may be prevented by following proper safety protocols:

  • Mark floors with tape to identify safe walking areas. Employees get injured by moving forklifts and heavy machinery, often because they don’t realize the dangers. Avoid this common hazard by clearly marking floors to highlight through-lanes, off-limits areas, and warnings.
  • Implement visual dock communication. Use traditional red and green lights as traffic signals to indicate when it is safe for vehicles to enter the loading dock and when they must stop.
  • Use locking devices on every truck that comes to the loading dock. A locking device secures the trailer to the dock, which prevents separation and gaps that cause people to trip or fall off the dock.
  • Clean the area regularly. People commonly slip or trip on the dock due to rain, snow and ice, as well as debris or spillage on the floor. Scheduled cleaning decreases the likelihood of injury from falls.
  • Pad the sharp edges of corners on the loading dock. When people are focused on moving product from truck to facility, they can inadvertently run into or “clip” uncovered sharp edges. Protective padding easily prevents cuts, bruises, and other injuries.
  • Secure loose product. Before moving product to or from the truck, check the load for unsecured or loose products that can fall off and hit someone, or create a tripping hazard. Similarly, unsecured larger products can cause injuries from lifting or straining to “rescue” loose or falling product.
  • Require proper documentation for machinery handling. To ensure loading-dock safety and compliance with the law, allow only OSHA-trained and authorized employees to operate heavy machinery.
  • Train employees to follow loading-dock safety rules. Make all employees aware of risks, hazards, and best practices by requiring a short course on appropriate protocols and guidelines for working on a loading dock.
  • Conduct proactive maintenance. Scheduled inspections and maintenance for common safety hazards enables a well-run loading dock while avoiding many accidents and injuries. For example, look for “door drift” or low-hanging doors from poorly adjusted springs, which cause fork-lift collisions with the door panel. The dock leveler lip extension also needs regular attention to ensure that it extends fully. When the springs and cable are not properly maintained, employees may use their hands to hold the lip out while someone else walks it down or uses the forklift to drive it down―practices that are dangerous. Look for loose or missing dock bumpers, too. These risk damage to the concrete, wall, and product when trucks grind up and down during trailer loading and unloading.

The federal government provides a variety of resources to help shippers and receivers understand and comply with safety regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers materials handling standards and requirements for powered industrial trucks and related equipment. OSHA also published a Worker Safety Series for Warehousing guide, which offers information on safety, hazards and mitigations for warehouses, docks, forklifts, conveyors, and much more.

Truck Driver safety

When you think of driver safety, behind-the-wheel accidents come to mind. But strains, sprains and tears from lifting, climbing, and pulling are more common. In fact, truck drivers suffer more non-fatal injuries requiring time off from work than any other industry. You can prevent many of these injuries with three proactive measures: 

  1. Prevent falls. Sixty-one percent of slip-and-fall injuries sustained by delivery truck drivers occurred on floors, walkways and ground. Staying aware of surroundings and wearing closed-toe shoes with a hard sole and good traction can prevent falls.

  2. Use tools to pull trailer tandem pins. Reaching for and releasing tandem locking pins requires physical exertion from awkward angles, which leads to neck, back and shoulder injuries. Brian Runnels, Director of Safety at Reliance Partners and a former driver himself, reduced driver injuries significantly by requiring use of a Semi Tandem Axle-Release Assist Tool(STA-RAT). This simple tool enables drivers to release the tandem locking pins with less effort and from a distance.
     
  3. Maintain three points of contact. To keep your balance when entering and exiting the trailer and cab, three of four limbs should always remain in contact with the vehicle. (e.g., two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, etc.). For example, when entering the trailer, hold onto door latch handles while stepping onto the under-ride bar to pull yourself inside. When you enter the cab, hold the door pouch and handle, back handle, or steering wheel while climbing the steps. In either case, exit the same way and backside first, always maintaining three points of contact as you move down the stairs. Use extra care when exiting because this is where most accidents occur.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer additional information on truck driver safety and health.  

Last Mile Safety

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan allocates $20 billion to safety programs. This includes digitizing knowledge and information bases on road configurations to enable improved data analysis and better insight into ways to improve roadway safety.

As part of the effort, local government agencies are also partnering with private companies to encourage data sharing in the interest of improving safety in last-mile deliveries. Last year, the FMCSA announced it would work with several companies to understand their safety management practices for vehicles in the 6,001-10,000 pound weight class, even though the FMCSA has no regulatory authority over them.  

Safety is No Accident

At Capstone, our safety-first mentality is continuously reinforced from our CEO throughout the organization. Our Operational Excellence (OpEx) Department develops and coordinates safety awareness activities, programs, audits, and training. The OpEx team is comprised of experienced professionals who audit, train, track, and facilitate our continued safe performance.

Whether you’re driving a forklift or an 18-wheeler, understanding safety protocols and regulations helps you prevent avoidable injuries. Sign up for the Capstone blog to stay in the know about these and other important supply chain issues.