Loading bays can be one of the most hazardous areas of warehouse operation with some estimates stating that 25 per cent of all factory and warehouse accidents happen in this area.
Edward Wilks, operations manager of Sara Loading Bay Systems, points out that raised docks are more hazardous than ground level docks.
“The fact that the dock is raised means that distracted personnel can easily fall off it, sustaining substantial injury; while even more severe injuries can be sustained by unwary forklift truck drivers, if barriers are not used to shut off the vacant dock when it is not in use.”
But the flat loading bay also has its hazards. Wilks points out that companies need to have working set practices on which personnel are allowed into the loading area during loading and unloading.
One particular hazard is unplanned trailer departure which can be remedied with a traffic management system. The traffic light system works by using the control system of the loading bay door to interlock with the dock leveller. This ensures that the driver knows when it is safe to pull off the dock, and when it is not.
“The second major area to consider in the loading bay is powered loading bay doors. To conform to legislation on the admissible forces for vertical closing doors, most companies use a “Contact Safety Edge”. This means that if the safety edge strikes a person or object it will stop and return to the open position,” says Wilks.
There is also concern among suppliers about rising imports of products that do not meet European safety standards.
Thorworld managing director John Meale, who is also vice president of the European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM), recently called for effective surveillance of the materials handling industry, warning that unless regular inspections were introduced, EU Directives and Regulations would continue to be undermined as counterfeit and non-compliant machinery flooded the market from both inside and, more particularly, outside of the EU.
“Many products are imported from countries where regulations are less stringent and while those destined for EU countries are legally required to meet its legislative standards, some unfortunately do not. What we therefore need is a level playing field.
“Counterfeiting – products purporting to meet the standards when they do not – is also a growing problem. These non-conforming products can be manufactured, and sold, for significantly less than their European counterparts, making them a very appealing prospect to customers. And this unfair competition is putting jobs at risk right across the UK and the rest of Europe.
“It is also important for end-users to understand that they are responsible for ensuring products they purchase comply with the regulations – if a worker is hurt due to non-compliant products the company directors could be subject to a fine or even jail. So what can they do?
“When buying a product, it is essential to not only look at whether it meets your needs but check the credentials of the company that has manufactured it,” said Meale.