Whether you call them loading docks, loading bays, or loading platforms, they are an inherently busy part of a warehouse or distribution centre: workers are moving around, forklifts and other material handling equipment is moving from the dock into the container, and there is a lot of noise.
It’s small wonder that 25% of reported warehouse injuries occur on and around loading docks. Given that there are 100,000s of exporters, it is unsurprising that an entire ecosystem of safety products - barrier providers, warning systems, vehicle restraints, and container-to-dock ramps - have been introduced.
The one thing these technologies have in common is they claim to improve safety.
But what if there was a way to totally eliminate loading dock safety concerns?
Most loading dock accidents are caused by two factors: (1) the need to bridge the gap between the chassis and the warehouse with a ramp, and (2), the driving of forklifts across this ramp.
With several variables in play at any one time - the truck, the ramp, the material handler, and the operators - there is vast potential for things to go wrong.
So what are the main causes of accidents with loading docks? EHS Today lists six:
Landing gear collapse
While ISHN lists another less obvious set of dangers:
Attention and Alertness
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Slips, Trips, and Falls
While some of these dangers are more warehouse-related (such as poor ventilation causing carbon monoxide poisoning), most of these accidents occur because the container is being loaded/unloaded as it sits on a chassis.
Simply put, if the container was on the ground first, few of these accidents could actually happen.
In some parts of the world they do. In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Malaysia it is common to load the container on the ground and then, using container handling equipment, lift the container onto a chassis to ship.
But for most of the world, getting a container off a chassis and onto the ground is a time-consuming and costly prospect, requiring either the hiring of a crane, or the purchase of traditional container handling equipment.
Now, some shippers are taking things one step further, building a dedicated container delivery and pick-up site, where the container is grounded for loading and unloading.
Take T&G Pipfruit in New Zealand for example, they installed two BISON C-Lift F Series container hoists to create two dedicated loading areas for their 40’ reefers at one site. Now, trailers shuttle containers between the port and the coolstore, delivering an empty to one loading area, then collecting a full container from the other loading area for the return trip to port - all without a dock.
Not only has this eliminated any potential dock-related safety concerns, but they also reduced haulage costs by 30%.
Dockless container handling solutions like the BISON C-Lift give site and facility managers more choice.
When faced with expanding an existing distribution facility, these provide a cleaner, safer, and cheaper way of increasing your container handling capacity. They are also very flexible and can be located wherever needed.
Dockless systems also open up more opportunities for growth. Essentially, since the lack of a dock is no longer an issue, more buildings can be used for logistics and warehousing operations than previously thought.
If improving safety by expanding your container stuffing or stripping operations to new areas is something you are considering, check out the BISON range of C-Lifts and lower your reliance on the dock.