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10 Vital Tips for Improving Warehouse Safety

The National Safety Council estimates more than 4.6 million workplace injuries occur in the United States each year, and that up to 25% of all industrial accidents occur at the loading dock. Even more, it is estimated that for each reported accident, there are 600 near-misses. Thus, facility managers are increasingly looking for ways to proactively address potential safety issues in their warehouses, instead of merely reacting to accidents.

Rite-Hite offers equipment solutions to help facility managers improve warehouse safety. We’ve collected 10 tips you can implement to reduce risk and help ensure employee safety.

1. Help Protect Against Vacant Drop-Off

Dok-Guardian XL Safety BarrierSummertime means more possibilities of open doors at the loading dock. Help keep your personnel safe around open dock doors. A fall from an open, unprotected dock edge (typically a 4-foot drop) can result in serious injury or even death for forklift operators.

To comply with OSHA’s Walking Working Surfaces regulations, look for barriers that are at least 42 inches tall with a 200lb downward deflection of no less than 39". The Dok-Guardian® XL is an excellent solution that does just that. For an extra layer of protection, choose a leveler with a Safe-T-Lip™ barrier.

2. Help Prevent Trailer Separation Accidents with Vehicle Restraints

Dok-Lok Vehicle Restraints

There are four kinds of potential accidents involving semi-trailers that can happen at a loading dock – trailer creep, trailer pop-up/up-ending, landing gear collapse, and early departure. Any of these accidents can seriously injure forklift operators inside a trailer or attempting to enter or exit a trailer. The most effective way to solve for these issues is to use proper vehicle restraints to ensure the trailer is secured to the loading dock during loading and unloading processes.
Shadow Hook Restraints | Stabilizing Trailer Restraints | Vertical Barrier Restraints | Wheel-Based Restraints

3. Program-In Safety Operating Procedures

Interlock door protection sequence

Traditionally, each piece of loading dock equipment – including vehicle restraints, levelers and overhead doors – is operated independently. While most are now operated with the push of a button, there is still risk involved regarding the order of use.

The Dok-Commander® control system can ensure that workers operate equipment in a safe sequence of operation. For example, a common programmable sequence requires the vehicle restraint to be properly engaged before an overhead door can be raised. Continuing this safe sequence, the door must then be raised before the dock leveler can be operated. Even if the buttons are pushed in the wrong order, the programmed sequence prevents anything from happening – helping to mitigate the potential for risk from human error. When a trailer is ready to leave a facility, this order of operation is reversed. 

4. Help Prevent Back-Over Accidents on the Drive Approach

Yard workers face some of the most dangerous surroundings of any warehouse employee. Surrounded by ambient noise on the drive approach, they may not hear the sounds of a semi-trailer backing toward them, since the truck’s engine could be 70 feet or more away. This can lead to back-over accidents, which can be fatal. Semi/tractor trailers are the second leading cause of vehicle back-over deaths in the U.S., according to OSHA. Rite-Hite solutions that address this danger include:
Approach-Vu™ - utilizes a light and horn system to present a clear visual and audible warning to pedestrians in the drive approach when a backing vehicle is detected.
Lok-Vu™ - uses an outside camera and an inside monitor to help keep boots off the ground and maintain supply chain integrity. The camera helps workers inside to see when a trailer has arrived at a given dock position and when/if it is properly restrained.

5. Use Warning Sensors for the Dock Interior and at Blind Intersections

Safe-T-Signal Intersection Warning System

The interior of a loading dock opening can also be a dangerous place, as pedestrians may not see forklifts backing out of the trailer in time. Rite-Hite has developed blue light technology solutions that address this:
Pedestrian-Vu™ - When a forklift or other motion is detected in the trailer bed, Pedestrian-Vu emits a blue light (similar to the blue safety lights on forklifts) onto the dock leveler, warning workers on foot of the potential danger.

Similar technology has been developed for blind or unmarked intersections.
Safe-T-Signal® - can communicate when pedestrians or fork truck traffic are approaching an intersection by employing high-visibility LED lights, including a blue LED light onto the floor.
Safe-T-Vu™ – a rack-mounted device that uses a flashing red LED light to alert workers when traffic is approaching from another direction to help prevent accidents at aisle ends and other high-risk intersections

6. Keep Your Docks Dry and Free of Debris

Safe protected loading dock

Trips, slips and falls are regularly reported as one of OSHA’s top 10 most common industrial accidents. One way to prevent them is to prevent moisture from accumulating inside your loading dock. Unfortunately, many docks aren’t sealed as well as they could be, and even small openings around the perimeter of a docked trailer could let in a dangerous amount of rain, snow or sleet. If you can see daylight through a perimeter gap, it’s time to consider upgrading your seals and/or shelters. Consider foam compression style dock seals such as the Performer or Classic dock seal, or a perimeter sealing dock shelter such as the Eclipse®. Selecting the right seal or shelter for your specific application will help guarantee sealing efficiency and employee safety.

7. Utilize Dual Reciprocating Barriers on Elevated Workspaces

  Fall safety related to elevated workspaces is a huge concern for plant managers. According to the ANSI standard, companies must provide full-time protection when loading and unloading materials from an elevated platform – there can be no exposed areas where an employee could potentially fall. Dual reciprocating barriers, such as the GateKeeper®, are a common choice for this application, since they create a controlled access area in which the inner gate and outer gate cannot be opened at the same time.

8. "See Through" High-Speed Doors with LED Lights

Working near high speed doors can be dangerous, as forklifts may not come to a full stop before going through. Knowing when an object is about to pass through a door opening can prevent a host of potential accidents, including collisions between forklifts and workers.

LED Virtual Vision has been developed to address this problem. When the sensors detect an object approaching, a strip of red light emitting diodes (LEDs) begin flashing on the opposite side alerting workers of potential danger. Such systems can be an alternative or complement to high-speed doors with clear plastic vision panels. Although the LED lights are typically placed just outside of the door’s frame on each side, they can be set up anywhere that enables the best visibility.

9. Support Spotted Trailers with Trailer Stabilizers or Trailer Stands

Place trailer stabilizers or trailer stands under the nose of spotted trailers to help prevent trailer up-ending or other accidents due to landing gear collapse. Products such as the TS-5000 Trailer Stabilizer acts as back up to existing landing gear support. Seldom used or rusted landing gear may collapse under extreme weight conditions. When the trailer stabilizer is positioned snug under a spotted semi-trailer at the loading dock, it will support a static load capacity up to 140,000 lbs.! The extra wide top plate (66”) and twin vertical supports will help absorb momentum caused from landing gear collapse and help minimize the trailer nose from dropping or tipping.

10. Use Data to Diminish Risk

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For decades, logistics operations have relied on two-way radios, yard checks on foot and spreadsheets to manage the flow of trailers in and out of their facility. These traditional communication methods provide somewhat limited and outdated information, but until recently they were the best available.

Our Dok-Vu® software brings an enhanced sense of clarity and order to logistics operations from the dock interior, to the drive approach and even the yard – helping to minimize detention and demurrage costs. These enhancements are likely to have a positive impact on shipper of choice status and internal company culture.

When connected to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, data from Rite-Hite equipment at loading docks, blind intersections and interior door openings can be used for operational improvements, data-driven decisions, and more. Rite-Hite’s Opti-Vu® platform can distill this information to provide managers with actionable insights about safety, energy efficiency and productivity for both the short - and long term.

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