On the dock: Avoid lift truck accidents

Loading docks are busy places.

Even good lift truck operators can experience problems in high-traffic dock areas. How many times have you watched in amazement, as a truck driver strolled casually from his truck cab toward the driver's lounge, oblivious to the fact that he was in the direct path of an oncoming lift truck? Or have you ever witnessed a tractor-trailer start to pull away from a dock with a lift truck still inside the trailer?

Watch your trailer-to-dock interface.

Trailer creep and trailer pull-away have long been recognized as a problem in dock operations. A number of companies manufacture vehicle restraints to prevent trailer movement. Make sure that levelers, dockboards or ramps are securely in place when mounted between the dock and trailer or railcar. If you are operating a sit-down lift truck and find you can't avoid falling off the dock, stay inside the lift truck. The fastened seat belt and operator cage offer protection. If you are on a stand-up unit, step off and away from the lift truck as safely as possible.

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Before entering a trailer, make sure that the wheels are chocked.

If tractors are not attached, make sure that the landing gear is secure and supports are placed under the trailer. Never take for granted that the trailer or railcar is braked or chocked. Take the time to check for yourself.

Separate pedestrians from lift truck traffic.

Your dock area should have designated pedestrian walkways protected by guard rails. Don't let anyone walk under your raised forks or load. Watch for people in your work area. Don't assume that they'll watch for you. Plan your work to eliminate pedestrians in the lift truck traffic area. Make eye contact with people before moving if you think they may not see you.

Make sure the dock area is well-lighted.

Where lighting inside trailers is low, use portable lights or add lights to your lift truck. Check the flooring in trucks, trailers and railcars. Look for breaks and weak points before driving onto them to make sure the floor will support the combined weight of your truck and your load.

Travel slowly on dockplates, bridge plates and ramps.

High-speed travel or sudden acceleration can jar them loose. Use a spotter to help you maneuver around a dock where loads or conditions restrict visibility. If your forward view is blocked, travel backward, particularly as you approach the edge of the dock.

OSHA Update:

Lift truck operator training is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Recent changes require companies to train lift truck operators. (29 CFR Part 1910).

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The changes mandate companies to develop training programs that address the unique characteristics of each type lift trucks employees operate. The changes state that "because each type (make and model) powered industrial truck has different operating characteristics, limitations and other unique features, an optimum employee training program . . . must be based upon the type vehicles that the employee will be trained and authorized to operate. The training must also emphasize the features of the workplace which will affect the manner in which the vehicle must be operated."

The training must consist of a combination of classroom instruction and practical training.