Employee Comfort at the Loading Dock
The loading dock is a crucial hub for the seamless flow of goods, oftentimes tasking employees to outpace yesterday’s performance to keep up with increasing supply chain demands. Given the expectation of increased output in today’s fulfillment operations, it is no surprise that almost 25% of all industrial accidents take place around the loading dock. Thankfully, there are a variety of solutions to help mitigate some of the top workplace hazards negatively impacting employee safety and comfort, including dock shock, overexertion, and slips, trips, and falls. Understanding and addressing employee discomfort is paramount to helping ensure the well-being of personnel, safeguarding assets, and maintaining the efficient transfer of goods.
On average, a forklift driver crosses the loading dock 100,000 times per year. One of the most common concerns for personnel safety over the period of these numerous crossings is dock shock. Dock shock is the constant jolting and jarring caused by a forklift crossing over the bumps and gaps of a traditional dock leveler, resulting in exposure to whole-body vibration. These jolts up the spine and through the neck/head area result in more than one in five forklift drivers to suffer from acute or chronic back and/or neck injuries, quite the expense considering a single back injury to a worker can cost a company $10,000 in direct and in-direct costs per injury.
Older and/or under-maintained dock levelers are the most common causes for this problem with several vibration points felt in each crossing. The first vibration point is typically located where the leveler deck meets the warehouse floor (rear hinge), while the second occurs when the lift truck passes from deck to lip (front hinge). The third vibration point is generally at the front lip edge as the forklift goes into (and especially out of) the trailer. Each point takes an extreme toll on the forklift operator’s body over time.
Dock shock has not gone unnoticed, and many facilities are committed to change. The National Safety Council unveiled the MSD Pledge initiative in 2022, which states that a company will strive to create a safer workplace and reduce musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risk and injuries by 25% by 2025. More than 170 organizations have joined the cause.
Overexertion typically results in excessive physical effort or strain and can take a toll on a worker's body as well as the productivity of the business, with each injury averaging around 71 missed workdays. Whether lifting, pushing, pulling, or performing repetitive tasks, overexertion can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, fatigue, and a decline in overall employee comfort.
In addition, there are two trends that introduce a unique set of challenges to this ergonomic issue: an aging workforce as well as inexperienced, and unskilled employees. With the average worker’s age over 65 years old and experience of 80% of current loading dock workers under 2 years, this combination of an aging, yet short-tenured workforce has led to some concerning safety issues.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls consistently rank at the top of OSHA's annual workplace injury lists and are among the most frequently cited safety violations, occurring at a rate of 27 incidents per 100,000 workers. It not only stands as the second leading cause of workers' compensation claims but is also, on average, 35% more expensive than other types of claims. Depending on the height of a fall, the consequences can be life-altering.
Falls from loading dock openings are one of the most common types of forklift accidents. In fact, approximately 7,000 such incidents occur every year. Considering most of these falls are more than 4 feet, the damage to equipment, product and workers can be catastrophic.
The Rite Solutions.
All of these potential dangers at the loading dock can lead to serious employee discomfort and injuries. However, Rite-Hite® offers a wide portfolio of industry-leading solutions that address each of these unsafe and all-too-common loading dock scenarios.
Dock shock can lead to neck and back injuries, absenteeism, and hefty medical bills. To help solve for this issue at the loading dock Rite-Hite has developed the Smooth Transition Dok System® to combat the pain points that contribute to Whole Body Vibration.
- Rite-Hite Dock Levelers are expertly engineered with a Smooth Transition Dok System®, which are designed to combat the impact felt by up to 50% when paired with modern forklifts. The unique design uses a constant-radius rear hinge that reduces the bumps and gaps at the rear of the dock leveler. Two-point crown control on the front lip hinge distributes the load evenly, providing a smooth path between your facility floor and trailer bed and extending the life of the hinge. Finally, an optimized lip chamfer improves the smoothness by approximately 20%.
- Stabilizing Vehicle Restraints are the gold standard for a Smooth Transition Dok System as it is the only design in the industry that helps prevent vertical and horizontal trailer separation accidents while also supporting wider and heavier loads. This system improves relative smoothness of transition from leveler to trailer bed by ≥ 120%.
Manual, repetitive tasks can also lead to employee discomfort and serious injuries. However, facilities can take preventative steps towards reducing, eliminating, or automating these back breaking processes.
- Push-Button Constant Contact Controls keep the operator safely at the control panel during the entirety of operation and help reduce repetitive manual tasks, increasing facility efficiency and ergonomic processes. Facilities that implement a Dok-Commander® control system have the opportunity to help connect the majority of Rite-Hite products into one interlocked safer sequence of operation.
- Hydraulic Conversion Upgrades are a budget friendly option for converting manual pull-chain levelers to a hydraulic push-button operation, helping increase ergonomic safety and productivity at the loading dock.
Helping protect the 4’ drop off for material handling equipment and pedestrians is a critical part of keeping the loading dock safe.
- Dok-Guardian® XL safety barriers help meet OSHA requirements for protecting the 4’ loading dock drop-off and are sufficient to prevent pedestrians and forklifts from passing through an open dock door. The high mesh curtain is designed to stop up to 30,000 lbs. and can easily fit across openings up to 12’5” (3784 mm), providing up to 58” (1475 mm) of protection against the vacant dock drop-off.
- Safe-T-Lip® leveler barrier is an additional safety precaution that can be implemented to help protect forklift drivers from loading dock drop off. The leveler lip barrier comes in two sizes, 5" or 7", and can withstand the impact of a 10,000 lb. forklift at 4 mph without damage to the leveler. It can also be retrofitted to existing Rite-Hite or competitive dock levelers.
Rite Here for You.
Loading docks play a critical role in the seamless operation of the supply chain, which is why it is crucial to acknowledge and address the inherent dangers associated within these busy areas. By implementing the right loading dock equipment and safety measures, facilities can strike a balance between productivity and protection. Contact your sales representative today to learn more about how you can proactively create a more ergonomic loading dock, protecting your people, protects, and equipment.