Increased Use of Vehicle Restraints
According to Mark Livesay, ESI’s VP of Automated Warehousing, the amount of dock levelers installed in North America increased by about 2% each of the last four years. Meanwhile, the number of vehicle restraints over that same timeframe rose approximately 7%.
He says approximately 7,700 forklift accidents happen at U.S. loading docks each year, so vehicle restraints are being used to help reduce those numbers.
“Many accidents may be minor collisions, though others are more severe. Cold storage facilities have seen too often where a truck driver pulls away from the dock prematurely during loading, or where a trailer gets nudged forward too much during loading due to the momentum of the forklift going in and out of the trailer. In both scenarios, there’s the danger of the forklift falling off the edge of the dock. These more severe accidents are why more and more facilities are focused on installing vehicle restraints rather than relying on simple wheel chocks.”
IoT and Automation
The pandemic has been called “the great accelerator” for its effect on forcing certain industries to evolve faster to meet today’s challenges. For cold storage and distribution facilities, coronavirus accelerated the need for automation and IoT technology in particular to help keep dock operations more organized in a rapidly changing environment, while also protecting employees.
“While vehicle restraints, safety barriers, and other safety equipment have existed for many years, they are now given more focus as a necessity to loading dock applications. This equipment is often expected to be interlocked together to help avoid injuries, damage to the doors, and reduce energy consumption,” Livesay says, adding that emerging technology like online dock management services, and IoT-enabled dock controllers offer a solution for warehouses to monitor all dock activity and address safety concerns immediately.
Other areas where dock technology is increasing staff safety include “LED and sound-based warning and notification systems for alerting foot traffic to potential safety issues,” notes Watkins. “Lift-truck accidents with foot traffic are among the most serious for dock areas. At the same time, vehicle-vehicle accidents may also occur in these areas if automated safety elements and warning systems are not prevalent or not installed in all potential impact areas.”