Keep Liability From Knockin’ When Your Dock Levelers a Rockin’
We’re all guilty of this ‘sin’- blissful ignorance. It’s a frame of mind that we are all prone to at some time or another and it’s human nature to sometimes avoid things. For example, you might hear a squeak as you drive your car to work but you may decide that it’s no ‘biggie’. Or you might notice that you feel more fatigued than usual and may pass it off as nothing more than ‘stress’ when there could be something bigger at play. You might even be one of those individuals who doesn’t investigate something until there are visible or audible signs that not all is well.
When it comes to the dock levelers in your facility, it is vital that you keep a close eye (and ear) on their performance in order to avoid injuries and legal problems. The truth with dock equipment is that it might seem like something that you can overlook without much consequence. However, the effects of such avoidance can bring about burdens and drama that you shouldn’t have to deal with. Therefore, you should give them attention now before an injury or lawyer brings them to your attention later.
When Dock Levelers Get Out of Balance
Don’t view your dock equipment in the same way you view the floors in your facility. While the floors are rather static and lifeless, a dock leveler is a dynamic device that can malfunction. In fact, it should be no surprise if you one day face such a situation. In most cases, a malfunction causes minor hiccups, and the repairs for these problems are usually quite simple. However, there are times when dock issues swell into much larger troubles.
Give Your Dock Levelers a Checkup
Just like how regular physicals can detect health problems in their earliest stages, a regular checkup of your dock levelers can help you find problems that could lead to damage or injury in the future. The most important thing to remember is that you need to approach the task from all angles. There are varying elements that could lead to a dock malfunction, so you will want to ensure that a professional recognizes all of the potential dangers.
- Operational Tests – A certified technician will check a dock leveler’s function by means of a raise test. The purpose of this procedure is to see whether the leveler reaches full height, and if it does so smoothly. If it fails to do so, then there is a cause for concern and you should address it immediately. Also, they will examine your springs and bindings to see whether they require adjustments.
- Check Fluid Levels – If your dock equipment uses a hydraulic system, then it is important to have the fluid levels verified. You should make it an annual task to hire a professional who can drain, flush, and change the hydraulic oil in order to keep the leveler’s function in optimum condition.
- Lubrication – Every 90 days, bring a technician on board to see that your pivot points, pins, and hinge tubes are well lubricated. They will most likely have to apply lubrication after this period anyway, so be prepared to have them perform this procedure for you.
- Keep it Clean – Dirt is an inevitable aspect of dock equipment, so they will need regular cleaning in this aspect. If you have a pit-style leveler, you’re already familiar with how much dirt can accumulate and you’ll therefore need a cleanup more frequently. A dock equipment expert can help you determine what to tools you should use for a cleaning job.
- Get a Visual – Along with manual tests, you should hire a professional to do a visual inspection of your leveler to find evidence of wear and tear. Where welding is concerned, they will make sure that the welds are still well-fastened. Also, a repair person will verify that warning labels are still intact since they contain important safety information.
What Can Happen When a Leveler Goes Unchecked
You’ve probably heard incidents that come from other facilities where someone was injured by problematic dock equipment. Approximately 7% of fork lift accidents occur on dock equipment – in most instances, the fork lift runs off of the loading deck. Let’s take a closer look at some common dock accidents.
An example of a serious loading dock accident is the event called a “trailer creep”. Also known as a “trailer or dock walk”, trailer creeps occur when lateral and vertical forces exerted by the repeated entrance and exit of a lift truck causes the trailer to move away from the dock. When this happens, there is a separation from the dock leveler. The injuries that these accidents may bring include bruises, cuts, or crush injuries to limbs. These effects are often severe and sometimes fatal.
Slips & Falls
Another area of concern is in the matter of slips and falls. Your facility’s levelers can be quite high off the ground, so you could sustain a very bad injury if you were to fall from the dock. While the cause of such an accident is not mechanical, a spill or ice from a winter freeze that was not attended to, can pose as a serious safety hazard.
What’s Happened in Facilities Like Yours
Back in 2009, a driver backed his truck into a warehouse loading dock. As the leveler’s lip extended, it hit the truck and the lip-extender continued to deploy the lip after the initial impact. Tension built up in the extender, sent the lip loose and then pinched the worker’s hand. What was the cause? Poor lubrication caused the dock to malfunction and indirectly caused issues with the springs. This was hailed as an instance of poor maintenance.
Another incident occurred in 2011, where a postal worker sustained a serious injury while using a dock leveler. The worker’s strap, which was used to lift the plate that serves as a platform between a loading dock and trailer, slipped off from a steel flap. This caused the worker to fall backwards onto the facility’s concrete floor. The cause of the accident was deemed a ‘willful’ safety violation since the equipment had serious defects. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the Postal Service $70k for the accident.
When the Law Holds You Responsible
With the examples mentioned above, you can see that poor maintenance and a lack of attention given to dock equipment can lead to serious accidents and injuries. While it’s true that poor judgment and carelessness can be the reason for several injuries, a large number of accidents are the result of ignorance. When a worker suffers an injury, they will most likely need medical/rehabilitative care and compensation. Health and safety investigations may follow, and the results may find that you are responsible for their injuries. When does this hold true?
- Blatant Negligence – If there are obvious signs of mechanical issues that have not been attended to, then you may automatically be at fault. The working environment may be deemed hazardous, and therefore, the cause of your employee’s injury.
- No Visible Warnings – As mentioned earlier, warning labels may peel off over time. A new worker may not know all of the dangers associated with the dock equipment, and the lack of warning signs could expose them to serious dangers. If a safety investigation shows that you do not have the required label, the blame will be yours to assume.
The Results of Liability Violations:
- Loss of Business (Shutdown)
- Damaged Reputation
Don’t Let Dock Equipment be a Cause for Injury
It may be a very busy time at the warehouse. You might feel overwhelmed and stressed out from the amount of work you have to do. However, you should always strive to test and maintain your dock levelers to keep your employees safe and happy. When you hire a professional to keep them in working order, you will avoid many of the problems that could damage them and injure your employees. As a result, you will avoid the burden of legal involvement and the effect it has on your business’ reputation.
If you think you are too busy to maintain your dock equipment, think about how hectic things will get if there is a malfunction that slows down your operations. It helps to check your equipment not only to avert safety problems, but to increase productivity as well. When you make it a priority to keep your loading dock safe, it will be easier to fulfill all other priorities without the safety hazards!
Need professional help to keep your dock levelers well-maintained? Give us a call at 1-888-244-4171 to speak with a certified technician.