Despite the plethora of equipment safety aids, the loading bay remains a relatively high risk area so what more can be done to address safety issues? Alan Jenkins, industrial director for Hormann UK, explains: “It is human intervention that is to blame,” and while machinery safety features very occasionally break down, for the most part accidents are caused by human negligence. That said, however, some additional safety features can be expensive, such as truck restraint devices, and therefore not widely used.

It is a well-worn axiom that one cannot put too high a price on safety so loading bay operators who have a poor accident history should look again, not only at safety aids, but also working procedures and training. On the equipment side, Hormann has been working to integrate all elements of the loading bay so that accidents through error can be minimised. Its new dock control system, for example, links the doors, dock levellers and traffic control systems so that each component will only operate in the correct sequence at the right time.

Included in the package are directional arrow lights to assist drivers of left hand drive vehicles (in the UK), making it clear which light refers to which bay. There are audible and visible warnings of truck movements and DockGuard posts that rise out of the dock leveller platform to prevent a lift tuck from driving out of an open door when there is no vehicle on the dock. Dock and dock leveller interlocks also prevent the door being opened until a truck in on the loading bay.

These are just some of the many other equipment safety aids, like Sara’s photo cell that runs ahead of its rapid roll pvc door and so prevents operators being hit on the head, or the rapid roll crash out facilities provided by leading equipment makers. It is difficult to see what more equipment suppliers could do so the onus for accident prevention must focus on operators, their training and rigidity of work practices.

Good equipment providers will attend site to train the loading bay operatives in the correct and safe use of equipment but it is, of course, the company employing the loading bay operatives which is responsible for their own health and safety policies. A problem here, however, is that the warehouse industry tends to have a high staff turnover so it is imperative that the correct safety inductions for new staff is undertaken and documented before the operatives are allowed anywhere near the loading bays.

Training should not be confined to loading bay staff but also extended to lorry drivers, who should either attend a safety induction or at least be made to read a document which they sign and confirm that they have understood the safety requirements of the specific loading bay areas. Those companies that also have many foreign deliveries should also consider training and/or documentation in various languages.

The problems of loading bay safety do not end with the despatch of a lorry load, for every loaded lorry must be unloaded. The fact is, many vehicles are not loaded safely, which can be a mix of insecure pallet or loose loads, uneven load distribution and deliberate overloading. This is particularly rife in ISO containers coming in from abroad. One investigation by the HSE and the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) in 2009 suggests that in Britain more than 75% of trucks are not loaded safely. Over a three-year period, cargo being loaded and unloaded killed 14 people and injured more than 2,000 when doors were opened. Loading bay personnel, therefore, need to take precautions when opening lorry doors.

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