Safety first for peace of mind

25 January 2013

A positive commitment to safety in and around the loading bay can help firms save money and provide long-term peace of mind, according to John Meale,MD of loading/ unloading equipment specialist - Thorworld Industries

A positive commitment to safety in and around the loading bay can help firms save money and provide long-term peace of mind, according to John Meale,MD of loading/ unloading equipment specialist - Thorworld Industries

While the Government has initiated a Red Tape Challenge seeking views on health and safety legislation, Thorworld Industries has issued a reminder that it is in the interest of all businesses not to wait for official guidance but to take a proactive approach to protect workers and resources. Thorworld, an accredited SAFEcontractor member, is maintaining its own safety initiative, focusing on the vehicle loading and unloading area.

Potentially this is one of the most hazardous areas in any company, warehouse or distribution centre. Yet despite the existence of an extensive range of safety equipment to protect against accidents, the company continues to see examples of poor practice.

John Meale says: "It astonishes me to see businesses operating without a robust loading and unloading area safety strategy.

Sometimes, a firm will discover the limitations of their procedures the hard way, after somebody has been injured. For others, their loading and unloading areas are an accident waiting to happen." Thorworld says the threat of legal comeback is not the only aspect of a sound health and safety policy. Aside from 'duty of care' considerations, there are economic imperatives for investing in safety equipment. Some of the costs associated with an accident can be measured immediately in terms of damage and downtime, but longerterm implications - such as higher insurance premiums or the threat of legal action - aren't always obvious.

Meale says that as soon as a loading dock door is opened, and a trailer pushed towards the dock, the scope for accidents increases.

For this reason, Thorworld's Dockprotecta range of loading bay safety equipment includes dock & vehicle bumpers (including a sliding nylon dock bumpers), wheel chocks, safety bollards, wheel guides and alignment curbs, vehicle restraints, signs and mirrors, trailer safety locks and supports, speed ramps, column/racking protectors and dock and traffic lights.

Equally important, vehicle movement must be controlled and, where possible, neutralised entirely to prevent lift tucks and personnel falling off the back of trailers, or becoming trapped or crushed. Thorworld provides a wide range of products to prevent vehicle creep. A simple and affordable solution is its Chock-it wheel chock which is positioned in front of the wheels to stop movement. Another method of preventing unintentional pull-aways is via a trailer safety lock which is fitted to a parked trailer once the air hose has been disconnected; this then prevents the driver connecting the trailer and driving away. For even greater vehicle and personnel safety, Thorworld offers the vehicle wheel lock, which prevents driveaway accidents during loading and unloading and reduces the possibility of theft.

Some of these safety solutions can be specified with sensors that warn of any unanticipated motion and which can be integrated to other devices in the loading bay such as traffic lights. Meale comments: "As technology is developing, integrated electronic systems are becoming a popular means of co-ordinating safety procedures across multiple pieces of equipment." Another hazard - and possibly one of the most dangerous - is when a vehicle trailer, without its cab, tips forward. This can happen if the standard landing legs fail and when the vehicle has been loaded incorrectly, or when empty it becomes unbalanced.

Thorworld says preventing this is relatively easy due to technology such as its trailer safety support.

Health and safety is not limited to dramatic one-off incidents. The potential exists for extreme operating temperatures to have long-term adverse effects on personnel - and potentially on products, if for example the warehouse is handling perishable goods.

Items such as inflatable dock seals help to maintain a consistent, safe temperature, while dock bumpers prevent sustained damage to both vehicles and the building infrastructure.

Investing in equipment is not in itself enough to guarantee a safe working environment. Numerous standards and directives applicable to good practice in installation and operation must be adhered to.

Employees must receive appropriate training.

Thorworld offers a range of training programmes to help customers master the safe and efficient handling of its loading bay equipment. It advises that before any investment is made a company should perform a health and safety audit to identify potential hazards, and recommends a new publication by The European Materials Handling Federation which offers advice on how to control safety issues. 'Guidance on safety on/around a vehicle loading area' is available at, under 'Free Technical Documents' and will be updated as standards and directives change, and new technologies are launched.