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Loading Dock Safety: How to Avoid Accidents & Injuries

A worker operates a forklift unloading a truck at a loading dock.

Employers need to protect workers during loading and unloading.

Loading docks are ubiquitous throughout the New York area, as nearly any business that manufactures, distributes, stores, or sells physical goods needs one. Unfortunately, they are also hotspots for work injuries. Many loading docks have high amounts of both foot and vehicle traffic, accumulated materials, trip hazards, and other potential safety concerns. Workers can be struck by vehicles or falling objects, caught between equipment and materials, or sustain back injuries from lifting and moving heavy objects.

According to Safety + Health Magazine, in one recent year, almost 6,600 workers missed at least one day of work because of injuries sustained on loading docks, dock plates, and ramps. About one in four warehouse injuries occur on the loading dock, and there are hundreds of near-misses for every injury.

It's clear that employers need to make loading dock safety a top priority to protect workers. Injured workers also need to know their legal rights in the event of a loading dock accident or injury.

Loading dock safety precautions

There are numerous safety precautions that can reduce the risk of a loading dock accident. Some of the most impactful steps include:

  • Keep walkways clear: for obvious reasons, materials tend to accumulate in a loading dock, so workers and employers need to be proactive about clearing walkways of trip hazards. If materials or empty pallets are blocking a walkway, then workers need to stop, put down whatever they are carrying, and carefully move those hazards out of the way, rather than haphazardly pushing or kicking.
  • Use appropriate racking: storage racks and pallet racks must be properly installed and maintained to prevent objects from falling on workers. They must also be proactively inspected, regularly repaired, and if necessary, removed from service until repairs are made. Racking failures are usually the result of improper installation or lack of maintenance.
  • Use restraints appropriately: when restraints are properly used on the back end of a truck in the dock position, there is no chance the truck will accidentally drive away or a forklift will be left on the truck. Proper and consistent restraint use can prevent serious accidents.
  • Use visual and, when necessary, physical barriers: yellow warning signs, guardrails, and other visual and physical barriers.
  • Limit the number of workers in the loading dock area: the fewer bodies in the loading area, the lower the risk of an accident. Businesses need to review their operations in the loading dock and utilize technology to put as few workers in a dangerous position as possible.

Employers also need to provide loading dock workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, steel-toed boots, hard hats, and safety goggles. Employees must also be trained and supervised to follow safety protocols, including safely handling sharp items and tools, using proper lifting techniques, inspecting pallets before use, and reporting any safety concerns immediately.

Injured New York loading dock workers have legal rights.

If you were injured while working on a loading dock, whether the injury was your fault or not, you should get workers' compensation benefits. These benefits pay for your medical expenses, partial replacement of your lost wages if you cannot work while recovering, and certain other benefits if you have a permanent injury. If a negligent third party was involved in your accident (such as an equipment manufacturer or outside contractor), then you may have a third-party personal injury claim as well.

However, navigating the legal system and getting full compensation for your work injury is often an uphill battle. That's why you need an experienced New York workers' compensation attorney on your side throughout the process. If you've been injured working on a loading dock, contact Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP for a free consultation. We proudly serve injured workers throughout New York.

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