Safety is a concern for everyone. Whether dealing with employees, or the public, at one time or another, the wellbeing and safety of others becomes a focal point. Whether it is a daily routine or preparing for a special event, keeping individuals out of harms way is necessary. With the use of ground poles and plastic chain, it allows pedestrian traffic to be directed and easily re-directed, if necessary.
To keep individuals away from dangerous and hazardous areas, provide a visual and physical barrier.
Number One on OSHA’s Top 10 most-cited violations for fiscal year 2017 was Fall Protection. As reported in Safety + Health, November 25, 2017 Issue.
Loading docks can be dangerous. Approximately 25% of all reported warehouse injuries occur on the loading dock, and for each accident, there are hundreds of near misses. The causes of dock injuries include truck separation from the dock, and falls from the dock, particularly when a forklift backs off the platform, and falls on the operator. These accidents may result in serious injuries, including death. So, it is extremely important to practice safety measures around loading docks.
Some companies simply require that dock doors are always closed, unless a truck is in position at the dock. But, since most factories are not climate-controlled, the open dock doors provide much needed ventilation. Also, on a busy dock, it is easier to see trucks arriving with the door open, and easier to use the dock without having to repeatedly open and close the door. So, the question arises, if the dock door is open, when is it necessary to install a guard rail or actual fall protection barrier, and when will a visual barrier suffice? The answer depends on the height of the platform, and current OSHA standard 26 CFR 1910.23(b) relating to Protection for Wall Openings and Holes, states that every wall opening from which there is a drop of more than 4 feet shall be guarded by an actual fall protection barrier. It is important to note that OSHA covers federal baseline requirements and that any state may have its own stricter requirements.
Semi-trailers, flatbed and straight trucks all have truck bed heights that closely align with 48” high platforms, so it is extremely common that loading dock platforms are 44”- 48” high. Refrigerated trucks are 50-60” in bed height, so they will always require a guard rail.
In addition, OSHA also issued an Interpretation Letter (55 FR 13407; April 10, 1990), that contains this statement, “employers would not be required to install guardrail systems on the working side of platforms, such as loading docks, where the employer can demonstrate that the presence of guardrails would prevent the performance of work.” However, this OSHA Interpretation letter refers to a proposed OSHA standard that has not been promulgated, so it is safer to take the position that any dock higher than 48” needs a fall protection barrier. See https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/1975-09-08 .
For the vast majority of docks then, a visual barrier will suffice. To be as safe as possible, the visual barrier needs to be seen very clearly. The barrier should be a bright color, and it is recommended that yellow be used, since yellow is the international safety color that means “Warning”. To be productive around busy docks, the visual barrier needs to be installed and removed as quickly as possible. Since almost all docks have metal trim around the doors, a strong magnet would be an easy and quick way to install and remove a visual barrier.
Knowing the risks and the OSHA requirements and maintaining a safe zone around loading docks is an important first step in preventing accidents.