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Training key for specific loading bay challenges

25 April 2018

With a combination of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, loading bays can be hazardous places to work. To maximise loading bay safety, employers must consider training and supervision alongside other factors, explains RTITB MD Laura Nelson.

Before an LGV enters the loading bay, it’s important to assess whether you are fully prepared to receive external vehicles. For instance, marshalling areas must be wide enough for lorries and lift trucks to be easily manoeuvred and suitable lighting, traffic routes, speed limits and parking facilities are all necessary.

Businesses should be familiar with HSG136 (Workplace Safety – An Employers Guide) and ensuring this guidance is followed. For example, pedestrians should be kept separate from traffic and equipment, so employers must ensure that the lines on the loading bay floor are clear.

In busy warehousing and storage businesses, it can be difficult to take a fresh and impartial look at whether your loading bay operation is safe and compliant. The RTITB HealthCheck can help managers identify things that may need to be addressed and that they hadn’t noticed, or had the time to think about.

As a lorry arrives, it will usually need to reverse up to the loading bay area. Worryingly, sometimes employees are expected to guide these vehicles without having been trained to do so. This failure to train could be a matter of life and death, so to reduce the risks around reversing vehicles in the loading bay area, employers should provide the appropriate vehicle banksman training.

Supervision is important

In the loading bay, policies for unloading vehicles at the site should be in place, but employers must ensure that staff are trained on these operating procedures. They must also be supervised to ensure these processes are followed, even when the operation gets very busy and staff become stressed or during seasonal peak times.

Training is also necessary around operations where shunter vehicles are used. For instance, the operator should complete daily checks on the vehicle and coupling/uncoupling procedures should be carried out to industry standards. They should also check if all air and electrical lines used during manoeuvres and whether the trailer parking brake is used before and after manoeuvring.

Shunter operators should be assessed for their competence, something that a Driver Assessor within an organisation can do at regular intervals. Driver Assessor Training and LGV Instructor Training from the RTITB Instructor Academy can help empower your business to ensure that drivers operate safely and follow the rules.

Being struck or crushed are the main causes of injury where forklifts are loading or unloading goods from the side of a curtain-sided trailer or using a raised dock area and dock leveller to access the rear of a trailer. Other dangers in the loading bay include stack collapse, or pallets falling from height, due to damaging a load, or even unplanned trailer departure.

Safeguarding against drivers accidentally driving away too early mitigates the risk of a serious injury to employees from equipment falling from the dock. Cooperation and understanding from the driver are essential. Applying the handbrake and key control are standard measures, but other systems can be used including vehicle restraints (chocks), traffic lights or barriers. 

For safe loading bay operations, employers should also ensure they use correctly trained lift truck operators. With RTITB accredited forklift training, operations can receive basic training, specific job training and then familiarisation training before going in to the live environment - particularly if they will be handling special or awkward loads. 

Employers should also consider the training needs of other materials handling equipment used in the loading bay. For example, pallet truck training can also help avoid the common ankle injuries that frequently occur in confined areas, such as the back of a lorry.

Over time, even correctly trained operators can pick up bad habits that pose risks to loading bay safety. For this reason, employers should ensure the skills of their materials handling equipment operators are monitored and refresher training is delivered as required. Companies often find that having trained, RTITB accredited lift truck instructors based in house is helpful for achieving this. The correct training of managers and supervisors to understand their responsibilities around loading bay safety is also crucial.

A final consideration is the unpredictable British weather! With the loading bay area often partly exposed to the elements, employers need to consider ways to manage and protection against this, as wet and slippery conditions can lead to slips, trips and falls.