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Safety in the loading area

Health and safety regulations obliging employers to protect their staff from work related risks and dangers have been in place for more than a century in Germany as well as in other countries. Nevertheless, even today the loading zone still remains an area prone to accidents that deserves special attention when it comes to risk assessment and prevention. In the following paragraphs we’ll show you how choosing adequate loading area devices helps reduce risks to people and goods. We focus mainly on dock shelters / seals, dock levellers and bumper systems, but will as well discuss the ever increasing importance of vehicle restraints.

Bumper systems protect people, vehicles and buildings

A dock shelter or dock seal is the first element to come into contact with a docking truck as it connects the vehicle to the building. It is designed to protect employees and wares from wind, rain and extreme sun, thus ensuring consistent quality and improving working conditions.

The next elements in line are dock bumpers. Not only do they cushion the truck impact but also contribute significantly to the protection of the staff during docking manoeuvres if dimensioned wisely. For example, if you choose a bumper depth of 400 mm combined with a door width of 3.500 mm, it is guaranteed that no person on the loading platform gets trapped between vehicle and building. Furthermore, it is important to choose the right type of bumper in order to optimally protect buildings and vehicles from damages such as cracks, dents and the like. Conventional rubber bumpers may seem a cost effective investment at first sight, but are often not convenient in the long run, as they offer neither real shock absorption nor particular durability. That’s why it is much more advisable to use spring steel bumpers instead. Thanks to their innovative construction, spring steel bumpers are able to completely absorb impact forces while at the same time being virtually wear-free and extremely durable. This type of bumper is therefore particularly suitable for use with heavy duty vehicles and high loading frequencies. Spring steel bumpers are available as simplex or dual models and as part of a height adjustable bumper system, the latter allowing for docking with closed truck doors.

Once the truck has docked, most often a dock leveller is put to use. Of course, dock levellers should have optimal dimensions, that i.e. maximum length and width for a given situation. A long leveller leads to lesser incline, while a wide one ensures that there are little to no dead spots to the sides of the leveller where it rests on the truck’s rear end. This way, loading gets both safer and faster.

Truck blocks are mandatory

If you follow the recommendations above, the biggest risks in the loading area should be avoided. At least, that’s what one would think considering only ideal process flows. Accident statistics show clearly, though, that in reality there are more sources of danger. For example, unwanted truck movements, such as inadvertent rolling or even early departures from the loading dock, cause a significant number of accidents each year, although the use of wheel chocks is virtually mandatory in many countries. A conventional wheel chock, however, does not have any control function, which means that its correct positioning is the sole responsibility of truck drivers and loading area staff. If, in case of an accident, it turns out that the chock has been taken away before loading was finished or has not been put on the wheel at all, this may lead to serious consequences. As an alternative, we propose the use of electrical wheel chocks, which have to be positioned manually as well but are connected to a control box and, optionally, a signal unit (e.g. information lights, alarm horn etc.), thus ensuring that loading may start only if the chock is in place and has to stop immediately if the chock is taken away.

The ARNOLD Anti Roll System - highly innovative vehicle restraint

In order to render loading safety even more effective and efficient we highly recommend you check out the most innovative product in this range: the ARS (short for Anti Roll System), a stationary vehicle restraint consisting of one or two rows of pneumatically driven chocks set firmly into the ground. The system is activated by means of a push button from the inside of the building immediately after the truck has docked. As the chocks are raised from below, the ARS can block even trucks with large lateral spoilers. The huge number of chocks (normally about 8 per row) has a psychological effect as well as a practical one. On the one hand, the visual impact makes it very clear to the driver that the truck is not to be moved. More importantly, however, it is guaranteed that, although wheelbases do vary to a great extent depending on the type of truck, at least one of the trucks axles is always blocked. When not in use, the chocks retract into the ground leaving an even surface with no encumbrances for manoeuvring. Moreover, the whole construction is highly functional and eco-friendly as it comprises neither potential disturbing sources such as ball bearings or chain conveyors nor hydraulic oil. So the ARS Anti Roll System is extremely robust and nearly maintenance free as well as weather resistant thanks to hot galvanisation.

Additionally, truck block / vehicle restraint systems can be complemented by sensor based truck detection / recognition and/or positioning systems. Combined with visual elements such as information lights, an all-embracing safety system facilitates and enhances communication in the loading area, thus playing a major role in promoting safety, transparency and efficiency.