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Dock upgrades can help DCs ward off injuries

Advances in dock equipment are helping distribution centers avoid some common injuries.

(Boonton, NJ, June 6, 2013) — Warehouse loading docks can be such treacherous places that Barry Grubb likens the hazards to those faced by workers in a coal mine.

A worker can lose fingers if a dock leveler malfunctions. A forklift operator can plunge off the dock if a truck driver mistakenly pulls away from the loading bay. Even without a catastrophic episode, docks are hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and generally tough places to work.

But, say Grubb owner of Ameridock Dock Systems, and others, advances in dock equipment are helping DCs avoid some common injuries.

One big advance comes in the form of automatic dock levelers. Traditionally, workers adjust these old-school levelers by walking on them. “If the leveler is not adjusted correctly, you have to walk higher and higher to get it to go down,” says Tripp Eskridge, senior vice president at commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. “Walking up a steel slope and standing on the edge is just not that safe.”

And there are more problems: If rain has come in through the dock door, it’s even less safe. If the leveler hasn’t been maintained recently, it might not adjust easily. And if the worker is light, he’ll have to walk farther out on to the edge of the plate.

For all of these reasons, automatic levelers controlled either by hydraulic or pneumatic systems have grown popular. Workers can adjust them simply by pushing a button.

Old-fashioned manual levelers cost about $1,500 per dock door, while automatic levelers cost twice as much. The automatic dock plates make up for their higher price tag by requiring less maintenance, Grubb says.

Additional information on automatic levelers, trailer restraints, lighting, and more appear in the June issue of Distribution Center Management.

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