Logistics and industrial manufacturing environments pose a significant number of threats to workers safety. Indeed, 2020 research* from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on workplace fatal injuries in the UK, showed that the Manufacturing and the Transportation and Storage sectors have a rate of fatal injury around twice the average rate across all industries.
For businesses in the sector, providing a safe working environment and implementing comprehensive protection and preventative measures for all staff and visitors to the site is of critical importance. Failure to do, as highlighted by the facts and figures, can result in serious and even fatal consequences.
One of the first steps on the journey to increasing safety and protection is being able to identify all hazards and potential risks inside and outside of your facility. It made sound obvious, but not until you have the full picture and scale of the risks posed, can you begin to fully understand what solutions and what level of prevention you require. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or a single piece of equipment that can solve every safety challenge but conducting a comprehensive risk assessment and analysis of your facility to identify each and every possible hazard is the recommended starting point.
Loading Dock Dangers
The loading dock is one of the most dangerous areas of any warehouse, manufacturing facility or processing plant. These fast-paced environments see a significant amount of movement inside with people and equipment, such as forklifts, and outside with trucks and trailers arriving and departing. In an average facility workers can cross the edge of a dock more than 100,000 times per year leaving them susceptible to risk and injury. However, research data shows that an estimated two-thirds of all loading bay accidents can be prevented with equipment and technology which already exists.
It was to address these risks that Rite-Hite created the Global Wheel-Lok, so called because it is designed to secure any type of trailer to the Loading Bay. Manufactured in Europe, it prevents well-known incidents such as vehicle creep (also known as ‘dock walk’), and accidents caused by a vehicle leaving its bay too early. Traditional wheel chocks, which have to be put in place manually, are limited in their use and unreliable, especially in poor weather conditions and they are by no means strong enough to prevent a vehicle from pulling away unexpectedly.
With Rite-Hite’s system, the driver simply reverses their vehicle to the Bay where wheel guides ensure accurate positioning onto the Global Wheel-Lok. As the tyre crosses the locking arm, the barrier rises and, using the energy of the trailer, follows the tyre until the trailer stops against the dock bumpers. The tyre is then locked in place, and a simple ‘green/red’ lighting system indicates to the driver – and the Loading Bay workers – that it is safe to continue.
When loading/unloading is completed, the Loading Bay worker presses the ‘unlock’ button to release the locking teeth, and a green light is displayed to the driver. The locking arm follows the trailer tyre back to its original resting position, and the vehicle is safe to leave. Being self-powered and with only four main components, the system is extremely reliable and easy to maintain. It is also particularly robust, capable of resisting up to 142 kN of pull-out force. Perhaps not surprisingly it is recognised as one of Europe’s only restraints to exceed the requirement for an FEM Class 3 vehicle restraint on both empty and full trailers.
Other risks at the Loading Dock can arise from poor maintenance. Seldom used or old and rusty landing gear may collapse under extreme weight if not properly maintained. There is also a risk of trailers tipping or overturning. Additional trailer supports with high load capacity are needed for reliable protection. Our TS-2000 Trailer stand, for example, is designed to work to fit most trailers that come into the loading dock, with a static load capacity of 227 kN, meaning trailers can remain well supported.
Solutions including Rite-Hite’s Eclipse Dock Shelter also add a further layer of safety and security, ensuring the loading bay doors are properly sealed and any air gaps eliminated. Made from highly durable materials and providing a tight, consistent seal across all sides and corners of the trailer, they also have the advantage of helping to maintain quality control and preventing an unnecessary waste of energy.
Every year, several hundred thousand forklift related injuries are reported, but the figures also show that as much as 70% of all reported accidents could have been avoided with proper safety precautions. With high volumes of traffic in the loading area it is paramount that every precaution is taken to provide a safe working environment.
Open loading bays and forklifts do not go well together, 7% of forklift accidents occur when a lift truck is driven off a loading dock. But there are simple and effective measures that can be put in place to increase safety. For instance, utilising Dock Levellers, such as Rite-Hite’s Safe-T-Lip Dock Levellers, that are equipped with an integrated, automatic safety barrier can safely stop impacting forklifts. They are designed to survive in the roughest applications and environments, featuring heavyweight steel profiles for increased stability and safety. Their interlocking capability also means they can be easily combined with industrial doors, vehicle restraints and safety barriers.
When it comes to safety barriers, using tapes or chains as protection for open loading bays and doors is not an acceptable safety solution. In fact, it’s a major hazard, and a more comprehensive and rigorous solution is required. Rite-Hite’s Dok-Guardian Safety Barrier is certainly one solution. Simple and easy-to-use, the barriers are made of PVC-coated fibreglass mesh, bound with highly visible bright yellow, heavy-duty, polyester restraint straps that are strong enough to absorb a kinetic energy of up 18300 Joules. That’s equivalent to a 6ton forklift truck with 3 tons of load hitting the barrier with a speed of 7 km/h! When not in use, the safety barrier retracts inside steel posts.
The barriers integrate with Rite-Hite’s powerful Dok-Commander Interlock system, which enables complete control of multiple pieces of loading dock equipment from a single, centralised unit. This powerful control system offers a real-time trailer presence monitor that provides a camera view of the exterior vehicle restraint.
Protecting premises and people
When it comes to increasing safety at your facility, it’s not just the busy loading dock and loading areas that need consideration. Equally important is the interior and assessing the potential threats that exist, and then finding the solutions that will not only increase safety, but also help to maintain productivity and business operations.
Separating and defining work areas and walkways and providing drop-off protection for interior loading and rail docks has long been a challenge for facilities. Painting yellow markings on the floor may be low cost, but it offers little to no protection. Instead, using safety barriers with steel posts and fixed guard rails, can help isolate the danger.
Internal traffic routes can also present a high chance of collisions if there are a number of blind spots or if busy intersections or corners are not well lit. Installing an active LED warning system (Rite-Hite’s Safe-T Signal system for example) can help to detect traffic from all directions and communicates with high-visibility traffic control LED symbols to the oncoming traffic. If traffic is detected approaching from one direction, then an amber LED yield signal is presented to the other directions. When traffic is detected from two or more directions then a red LED stop signal will be presented to the approaching traffic and a blue LED light will illuminate on the floor; directions with no detected traffic will be presented with an amber LED signal.
Health and safety is also about personal health, looking after an employee’s welfare and preventing thoroughly avoidable accidents from occurring, perhaps due to the weather. During summer months, as temperatures rise higher and higher, this can lead to employees become fatigued, with a greater risk of the loss of attention and focus, meaning the risk of accidents can increase. Equally, during the wetter and colder months, there is greater risk of rain or snow being brought into the warehouse, increasing the risk of slipping on floors or surfaces. Installing HVLS industrial fans in your warehouse and production halls can help to reduce the risks, improving the indoor climate and also relieving heating and air conditioning systems, which in-turn helps to reduce energy costs.
Whatever your requirements, at Rite-Hite we are dedicated to providing our years of expertise to increase safety for your premises and your people. To speak to us or apply for a free analysis of the security situation at your facility and loading bays, visit www.ritehite.com.
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