Changing consumer buying patterns are emphasising the need for warehouse design adaptability and nowhere is this more obvious than in the loading bay. As an example, Alan Jenkins, sales director at Hormann UK, points to many companies now using a variety of vehicles, all with different loading bay requirements, and so equipment suppliers must be able to provide a flexible approach for their customers. One aspect of loading bays, however, that never seems to change is the susceptibility to damage and accidents. Fortunately, the equipment suppliers never cease to bring in new products to counter these costly problems.

As a pointer to the ongoing hazardous nature of loading bay operations, the Health & Safety Executive revealed that 15% of all workplace transport injuries happen during the unloading and loading process, particularly when a vehicle leaves a loading bay prematurely. This is a major cause of serious accidents that sees forklifts tip over a dock edge as a lorry pulls away too soon or has compromised dock leveller lips or bridge plates through lorry creep.

Wheel lock devices have been around for decades but there is always room for improvement. Last year Hormann UK introduced its MWB Wheelblocker which allows bay workers to lock lorries and trailers manually. It comprises a rotating arm lock, fold-out support pedestal and operating lever that detects the working position of the wheels, and an advanced LED sensor flashed green once the vehicle has been secured. The lorry status is then displayed in the hall along with a key switch that provides an override function for swap containers. It should not be overlooked, however, that dangers also lurk within the lorry, particularly when loads have not been palletised. There should be measures/devices in place to prevent loads toppling on operatives when opening the lorry doors.

The market for fast-action doors continues to grow strongly and here, too, despite safety aids that go back decades the industry still adds to the improvements. Door damage, often caused by forks-truck collisions, has been a running sore over many years and so door suppliers have developed crash-out facilities and advanced detection and warning systems. A good example of the more recent crashfriendly, fast-action doors is Stertil UK’s Flexiedge, which has a soft bottom edge that not only adjusts to seal on uneven floors but prevents causing injury to users and provides maximum resistance to damage caused by vehicle collisions. If the door edges are knocked out by the collision they are automatically reinserted in the side guides as the door opens. Additionally, an infrared photocell ensures instant halting of all door movement when an obstruction is sensed.

Continued improvements can also be seen in the inflatable dock shelters, extant at least 40 years. A good example comes from Ritehite with their new Eclipse range of shelters. In the past, a significant problem with inflatables was tear damage caused by lorry departures before being stored in the deflated mode. They could also be easily impacted or damaged. Unlike other inflatables, the Eclipse is equipped to obscure daylight fully and effectively seal all the way up the trailer’s sides and top and all corners. Ritehite says it guarantees the Eclipse as the darkest, most environmentally secure loading area. Inside the dock, however, lighting can be important for safety reasons so the company provides a multi-articulating arm built from moulded nylon links, dubbed the Flex Neck LED Dock Light, to make it easy to see everywhere inside the trailer.

While all these safety and productivity improvements are commendable they can be no substitute for the critical role of staff safety training and work processes, and the latter much never be allowed to cut corners.