chaz2In a recession it is tempting to cut equipment procurement costs at the expense of quality and even safety, a temptation which apparently afflicts the loading bay industry but it is both foolish and false economy. Mike Bunn, MD of Sara Loading Bay Specialists, believes that cutting back on material and quality to save money makes no sense because end users will have little capital for some time to replace incorrect or poor products and with cash flow being tight, repairs and maintenance might also be difficult to justify.

Thorworld echoes that sentiment by advising that end users should make sure that all the equipment suggested by suppliers is produced under strict quality controls that ensure the highest European health and safety standards. It is a fact that an increasing amount of material handling equipment that does not carry the official CE mark or meet European quality and safety standards is now entering Britain, particularly from eastern Europe and Asia.

Using inferior materials handling and loading bay equipment could pose a threat to the health and safety of personnel. As an example, John Meale, MD of Thorworld Industries, says “I have seen a new loading ramp made in eastern Europe that was totally unsafe to use.” The ramp, which did not have a CE mark, was a major health and safety hazard in John’s view. Given that loading bays account for about 25% of all factory and warehouse incidents, personnel could do without extra safety hazards based on skimping procurement issues.

One of the most common causes of accidents is premature vehicle departure from the dock or vehicle creep which leads to the dock leveller lip losing contact with the vehicle bed. To counter this, Hormann has launched its new Wheelblocker. The device keeps the truck and trailer securely locked against the dock, only releasing the trailer when the handling operation is complete.

Sara additionally offers a traffic management system which ensures that the loading bay door is closed until the vehicle is docked and that the door is also closed before the vehicle is signalled to depart. This not only provides a safe barrier for the warehouse workers but also provides energy savings as the door is open for the shortest period.

Energy savings and improved safety are also hallmarks of Easilift dock pods, which are complete stand-alone loading bay enclosures which can be installed directly onto a building’s external face. By maintaining loading/unloading functions within a separate and distinctly confined area there is no cross traffic to worry about and so it provides a major safety benefit.

There are two major causes that lead to inefficient loading bays – poor initial design and skimpy maintenance issues. Potential foul up points to look for at the design stage are:

1) Too steep a slope on the dock approach

2) Incorrect dock height

3) Wrong sealing products

4) Poor understanding of product sequencing and therefore traffic management

5) Low capital investment in products. Using the cheapest of anything rarely proves to be a wise investment in the long run.

On maintenance issues that can lead to poor loading bay efficiency levels Hormann’s Alan Jenkins, commercial director, industrial division, points to lack of training, no clear loading bay procedure, lack of maintenance to doors and levellers and general negligence. Sara adds that maintenance is still very much a poor relation on loading bays. Even with PUWER regulations it is still difficult to persuade some businesses that dock levellers and doors perform better and are safer if they are maintained twice a year.

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