New technology trends help improve loading dock safety equipment

Unfortunately, accidents and injuries at the loading dock are more commonplace than safety managers would like. In fact, 25% of all reported industrial accidents occur at the busy loading dock. And for each accident that occurs, there are about 600 reported near-misses with countless others going unreported.  

Loading dock safety equipment helps protect your team from these accidents while keeping them productive, especially when coupled with new technology and smart upgrades.

1. Upgrade your communications at the loading dock, distribution center, and warehouse.

It’s hard for pedestrians to be actively aware of all the forklifts driving around the warehouse or for dock workers to efficiently track when trucks arrive at the dock. Better communication at the loading dock helps you stay a step ahead of the bottlenecks and hazards with tools like: 

  • Line-of-sight light communication
  • Interior and exterior motion detection systems
  • Audible and visual alarms
  • Smart dashboards

The Rite-Vu™ Hazard Recognition and Control systemcombines six separate products to help protect your people from hazards around your loading dock safety equipment. One component, Pedestrian-Vu, uses motion sensing technology on each side of the dock door to extend the blue light onto the deck of the leveler. When interlocked with controls, Dok-Lok vehicle restraints cannot be disengaged when Pedestrian-Vu has sensed motion inside the trailer. Rite-Vu™ Hazard Recognition and. Control helps protect pedestrians on and off of forklifts inside and outside at the loading dock.

2. Use technology to help prevent forklift accidents.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor, forklifts accounted for 8,140 nonfatal injuries leading to missed work in 2019. Anytime a lift truck operator drives in and out of the trailer, there is the opportunity for loading dock hazards such as: 

  • Unlocked trailers can drive away or creep away from loading dock, especially when light communication systems are not present
  • Forklifts may mistakenly drive onto trailers before the loading dock leveler can be completely deployed
  • Pedestrians lose visibility, and reaction time, when blue lights disappear inside the trailer which increases risks for forklift and pedestrian collision

Smart upgrades to loading dock safety equipment can address these issues by mimicking the controls and extending line-of-sight communications. Leveler-Vu and Corner-Vu were designed to signal to the forklift operator and nearby pedestrians using light communications -- with a green light indicating that the trailer is secured to the building and it’s safe to “go” or enter the trailer.  Pedestrians can also see the Corner-Vu lights mounted alongside the dock door opening regardless of obstructions in front of control boxes and know if the dock is active. 

3. Rely on alarms and sensors to help reduce truck back-over risks.

There is an underestimated space between the truck driver and the loading dock -- on average, a distance of 72 feet. The length between a noisy truck engine and moving trailers makes drive approaches seemingly quiet, increasing the risk of back-over hazards. According to OSHA, there have been 40 fatal accidents involving backing tractor trailers in just a 6-year span and it’s the second leading cause of back-over fatalities in the United States. 

When you are reviewing your company’s Drive Approach Policy, consider technology upgrades (like Approach-Vu) which can automatically detect the motion of a backing trailer and signal to material handlers and nearby pedestrians to vacate the lane with a light and audible horn. The system can be installed in the housing of the restraint or offered as standalone. It’s a smart way to upgrade any vehicle restraint, from simple wheel chock to automatic rotating hook restraint, with life-saving technology.

4. Control panels are safer than manual or physical checks.

Shifting manual processes to control panels is a smart upgrade that not only introduces ergonomically safer practices, but it can also help eliminate human error by interlocking systems into a safe sequence of operation. This ensures directions are followed in the appropriate order during engagement or disengagement. For example, the Dok-Commander System:

  • Initiate enter trailer and exit trailer commands to queue up other loading dock safety equipment sequences
  • Initiate Dok-Lok before opening dock doors or activating levelers
  • Require dock doors to be open before engaging dock levelers or dock leveler lips
  • Insure the dock leveler has been withdrawn and stored safely before the Dok-Lok releases the trailer 

Interlocking systems can connect vehicle restraints, dock levelers, dock doors, and other loading dock safety equipment to help avoid injuries, damage to the machines, and reduce energy consumption. Ultimately, it’s safer to rely on automated sequences and technology-driven checks rather than trusting distracted workers to keep track of it all.

And next generation controls pave the way for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies.

5. IIOT Platforms help you control all warehouse and dock operations.

Opti-Vu IIoT platform collects data from connected Rite-Hite loading dock safety equipment and sensors, allowing multiple systems to work together. Data collected can:

  • Inform safety personnel of new training opportunities
  • Track equipment needs and lifelong maintenance trends
  • Use the Safety Assessment tool to identify safety-related events at the loading dock and take proactive measures to prevent risks from happening in the future
  • Manage safety events flagged by the Safety Assessment Tool to identify trends and patterns, supporting training or behavioral corrective actions

It’s also possible to integrate dock and yard management software, like Dok-Vu, for an even closer look at the safety of your loading dock operations. Dok-Vu introduces better communication tools like: 

  • Loading dock scheduling and activity dashboards
  • Remote dock oversight for your busiest docks
  • Robust data collection and reporting to find safety improvements and new efficiencies
  • Painless check-ins for drivers and carriers through Dok-Chat text messaging 

To improve your loading dock safety equipment, you can use technology to take back control through improved communication via lights, alarms and sensors as well as incorporating smart automations. It’s even possible to bring all of your equipment together through IIoT Platforms and Dock and Yard Management Software Solutions.  

Help Make Your Smart Loading Dock Safer Contact Us Today


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