Get A Grip On Slippery Loading Dock Floors

How to prevent dock accidents through the use of proper dock doors, levelers and dock seals.


In school we were taught, “neatness counts.” Those wise words from your teacher apply significantly when it comes to the danger of slips and falls on the food loading dock.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slips and falls cause 15 percent of all lost-time accidents, with a disproportionately high number of these injuries occurring at the loading dock. The 2007 Liberty Mutual Safety Index revealed that these kinds of accidents cost the industry $6.6 billion annually. The study found that while the incidence of other injuries was dropping, the number of injuries caused by slips and falls was growing.

The problem stems from the accumulation of moisture on the dock floor, which mixes with debris and oil to create a dangerously slick surface. Since most docks have a doorway averaging 8 ft x 10 ft, moisture from rain and snow has ample opportunity to find its way inside.

There are many strategies used to deal with moisture around the dock, ranging from warning signs to guard rails to slip-resistant overshoes, but perhaps the most important way to prevent slips and falls at the dock is attentive housekeeping. OSHA has rules about this, of course. There are two different regulations requiring that workplaces practice good housekeeping. The focus is on keeping areas clean and neat and keeping aisles clear.

When it comes to combating slips and falls, “housekeeping” implies keeping the dock floor clean and dry. But all this diligence can be thwarted if the dock is not effectively sealed off from the outside elements.

Smart facilities practice 5S and other strategies, applying discipline to keep the dock floors clean and swooping in on spills and slicks when they happen, but there are factors unique to the dock. For example, on many docks, brisk traffic prevents clean-up crews from promptly attending to wet floors. If these and other factors are minimized or eliminated, it makes this job easier and the area safer.

The key is preventing weather-generated moisture from entering the dock in the first place, and proper equipment application is vital.

Dock doors – is the doorway truly covered? Operate a fast-moving forklift within the confined space of the dock, and damage to equipment is bound to happen, especially when it comes to dock doors. Collisions can damage doors outright, or the hammering can compromise their ability to seal the doorway. The resulting misalignment between the door panels and the doorframe creates gaps that enable the invasion of moisture.

Common dock doors with garage-style roller guides and light gauge metal tracks cannot stand up to the beating. Even closely supervised docks can be the scene of accidents as product accumulates near the doorway. Forklifts back into the door or ram staged pallets into door panels. In some situations, replacing lower panels with “flex panels” will ensure the doorway is covered. Other times, management finds damage occurring at all points of the door and decides it is best to install a fully impactable dock door.

Impactable dock doors are built to stand up to both the occasional bump and the most severe collision. Rather than becoming damaged from the force of a major impact, the door panels release and can easily be set back in place. Fully impactable models have the weatherseal attached to the door panel rather than the doorframe. The door and weatherseal can roll up out of harm’s way, allowing the door to maintain a consistent seal.

Door guide or track design is another important element of sealing effectiveness. When traditional light gauge metal tracks are hit by forklifts, they get deformed and can capture the guide rollers. This makes the door difficult to operate and tempts dock workers to leave the doorway open between truck loads to avoid back strain. Impactable doors that feature rolling, retractable plungersriding along V-groove tracks ensure the door will operate easily, regardless of the impacts suffered by the guides.

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