In a fast-changing world where consumers expect instant gratification through online purchases, the stresses on loading bay equipment and the need for flexible, variable solutions rises. Owing to the rise of diverse vehicles from 40 ft trailers to small local delivery vans on the bays the means to deal with that on site may need a second look. Dock levellers, for example, should not only use good quality steel to cope with the trend to smaller lift trucks with smaller wheels and therefore higher load points they should also consider using dock levellers with segmented lips to cope with narrower widths on small vans or longer telescopic lips for variable vehicle bed heights. Mobile telescopic conveyors may also need to be added for non-palletized loads going into smaller vans. For safety and working environment reasons it may also be advisable to consider non-slip coatings on each leveller, which will also help cut noise levels from roll cages. Loading bay doors with large panoramic vision panels will also allow in much more natural light and so could reduce lighting bills.

chazSMEs looking to improve their goods in/goods out but cannot afford a dedicated loading bay or where tenancy terms forbid major alterations, nor the disruption that goes with its installation, have the option of a semi permanent solution that meets all the requirements of a dedicated loading bay, says Thorworld, specialists in loading yard ramps. They now offer the ramps integrated with a platform and hydraulic dock leveller. Once this solution is positioned  flush to the entrance beneath a roller or sectional door and bolted to the ground, there is no major difference in performance, reliability and health and safety. Easy to install, owing to no civil works, it can be easily relocated and enhanced by add-ons like dock shelters. The one drawback is the amount of marshalling space taken up when the ramps are used internally.

Energy issues feature high on the list of user concerns so loading bay operators could profit from the free on-site energy audits offered by the leading loading bay equipment suppliers. The doors would most likely be the main loss of heat or cold air for a variety of reasons but rapid-action doors, while cutting down heat loss, also offer other key advantages, like suppression of pest ingress, more comfortable working conditions and protection of sensitive production processes.

Try as the industry does to cut the accident rate on the dock through many product innovations the fact remains that there are over 5,000 accidents involving transport in the workplace every year and by far the most dangerous part of a warehouse operation is the loading nay. A look at such accident incidents shows that two thirds of forklift truck accident victims were not the drivers and this often simply means that drivers and pedestrians assume that they have been seen when in fact they have not. The obvious answer is more employee training for all workers at risk, especially agency staff taken on temporarily at peak periods and who may be unfamiliar with loading bay environments. Simple, low-cost investments like controls, barriers, floor markings and good lighting for segregating pedestrians and trucks will also enhance safety.

It should also be remembered that what goes on in the loading bay does not stay there regarding safety issues. Improperly secured and unevenly distributed loads within trailers or containers can destabilise lorries on the road, leading to overturns, or cause accidents at journey’s end when other loading bay crews open trailer doors. One also should never forget the silent enemy of dangerous exhaust fumes and other fumes that may lurk within containers waiting to kill the unsuspecting staff as they enter the container. If non electric trucks are used then they should be fitted with soot filters and/or catalytic converters, and when trucks are showing excessive smoke or smell they should be checked by a maintenance provider.

Often the enemy of safety is operational speed and when pressing despatch deadlines loom the temptation to move too fast or cut corners rises. It is important, therefore, to enforce speed limits for trucks working near pedestrians.