Not all employers and employees in Oklahoma recognize the hazards posed by open loading docks. It will take very little for you to slip on a wet spot or trip over a damaged pallet and tumble headfirst over the edge of a four-foot high loading dock. Those who are unfamiliar with these busy areas might think that keeping unoccupied docks closed will eliminate such accidents, but that is not always practical.
Factories and warehouses without climate control can be unbearable during the summer months, and leaving dock doors open can provide ventilation. Also, trucks come and go continuously at busy loading docks, and closing the doors only to reopen them within five or 10 minutes is impractical. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes the use of barriers on the edges of loading docks higher than four feet, it only provides some level of protection.
Additional safety measures
While the OSHA rules can prevent loading dock accidents, you can take the following precautionary steps, or suggest them to your employer to protect you and your co-workers:
- Safety barriers: You can increase the protection barriers offer by painting them a bright yellow -- which is the acceptable, international color that indicates a warning. It is also essential to install barriers that are strong enough to withstand the weight of moving forklifts with heavy loads.
- Floor markings: Painting the edge of the dock in a bright, reflective color can warn workers of the potential fall risk, and using the paint to create a safe zone that must remain clear may provide additional protection.
- Lighting: Overhead lighting must be adequate to illuminate the entire dock to ensure overall visibility. Some warehouses use a safety system by which red and green lights indicate when it is safe to approach the danger area.
- Signage: This is a commonly used warning system that alerts workers to danger ahead -- STOP or DANGER on bright red boards could provide the necessary warning.
- Training: None of the above will have the intended effect without the required safety training. Your safety might be on the line if any of your co-workers are unaware of the importance of housekeeping strategies to keep the loading dock area free of clutter and wet spots that could cause slips and trips. All employees must learn how to navigate the dock area safely, and they should also know the protocols to report potential hazards.
Open loading docks will always be hazardous, and if you are the victim of a workplace accident in Oklahoma, you will be entitled to claim workers' compensation benefits to cover all your medical expenses and lost wages if your injuries prevented you from returning to work immediately.