Many loading bays are under heavy pressure to meet tight delivery schedules but this need not contribute to the still high level of loading bay accidents provided the best equipment has been properly installed, the safest work processes applied and all staff adequately trained about safety issues. HSE figures, alas, clearly show that there is still much room for improvement. During 2013/2014 over 1,500 people were injured by moving vehicles at workplace premises and probably the most conspicuous is the loading bay. As if this were not embarrassing enough, these accidents are being more widely reported in the press.
A key mantra to keep in mind is: follow the correct procedures, and in this all loading bay personnel must be involved, and there must be no climate of fear preventing staff from reporting hazardous practices. For their part, loading bay equipment suppliers have done splendid work over many years by designing out accident potential, so one cannot blame the equipment. This could involve simple actions like Hormann’s key chute system, which involves a lorry’s keys being hooked onto the raised door, preventing the driver from pulling away early. Wheel chocks or other restraint systems will also restrict lorry creep during loading/unloading. Industrial safety specialist Castell’s latest, maintenance free Salvo SML-EL device is also designed to prevent accidental vehicle drive-away by interlocking the trailer’s air brakes with the dock door. Even bespokedesigned loading bay kit can also enhance safety and working conditions. Changes in people’s shopping habits, like switching to online shopping, are changing the face of loading bays. When Stertil installed 99 loading bays for DHL at Manchester Airport City they incorporated an external tapered dock seal to match the shape of Mercedes Sprinter vans. This not only cuts heat loss but also protects personnel against adverse weather and rain ingress. Wet floors are risky floors.

For equipment to perform safely, however, it is not simply a matter of ensuring it meets the relevant machinery directives but also ensuring that the kit has been properly maintained. There may be a temptation to skimp on maintenance owing to cost issues but such expense can be reduced if users take advantage of end-user training offered by equipment suppliers like Sara. This will allow users to identify and sometimes even fix problems that may occur and thus cut downtime, call-outs and productivity losses.

There is, alas, a climate in which architects, contractors and end users think the only possible cost savings are at the point of purchase, a climate that repeats itself in the forklift truck acquisition market. This can lead to skimping on useful safety devices. Sensible loading bay operators will look beyond the cheapest purchases price and consider the total cost of ownership.

Accidents have many cost issues. Even the fine for a serious accident can cost far more than safety devices, added to which must be the costs of downtime, damaged reputations and goods, higher insurance premiums and the burden on the NHS. Casual management attitudes towards unsafe systems at work can also lead to jail sentences.

All forklift drivers must be properly trained but given that more than half of accident injuries involve non-drivers how well trained and safety savvy are the rest of your loading bay staff, and what aids are there to improve the safety of visiting lorry drivers? Staff who unload arriving container lorries must be aware, for example, of the dangers from unloading loose cargoes, as opposed to palletised, when opening lorries’ rear doors. Some loads, like treated tropical timber logs, even need special care because inside the container the fumes can kill.

Loading bay accidents can have their source outside the warehouse. Given that many lorries have improperly secured loads, look upon arriving vehicles as a potential Trojan horse. The yard itself must certainly never be overlooked because many injuries occur as manoeuvring lorries trap staff. Arriving lorry drivers can be helped if there are conspicuous traffic flow signs, while all staff can benefit from marked safe zones for pedestrians. A safe loading bay is an efficient and happy one, and in the long run more productive and cheaper to run.