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6 Cargo Loading & Unloading Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

6 Cargo Loading & Unloading Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

Loading & Unloading Cargo Practices to Minimize Trucker Injury Risks

The cargo on 18-wheelers can present several risks, especially to the truckers and others responsible for loading and unloading that cargo.

In fact, nearly 1 in every 5 fatal injuries involving big rigs is sustained when trucks are not in motion. That’s according to recent data, which also reveals that many of these deadly truck accidents occur as cargo is put on and taken off tractor trailers at loading docks.

Loading Dock Accidents & Injury Statistics

Cargo-related accidents at loading docks happen far too often, recent findings show. Specifically, when it comes to loading dock accidents, injuries, and risks, the statistics reveal that:

  • For every one accident occurring at a loading dock, there are about 600 “near-miss” events, meaning an accident nearly happened (but didn’t).
  • Since 2016, warehouse accidents at loading docks have increased by at least 5%.
  • The most common injuries caused by cargo accidents at loading docks include head injuries, back and spine injuries, sprains, severe lacerations, and broken

Notably, these loading dock cargo accidents can include several different events and incidents, including (but not limited to):

  • Cargo falling off warehouse storage shelving or 18-wheelers
  • Cargo entrapping or crushing workers on loading docks
  • Cargo shifting on trucks before it’s fully secured
  • Big rigs shifting in loading docks as cargo is being loaded or unloaded

Top Risks at Loading Docks

The biggest risks and hazards at loading docks tend to include (and are not limited to):

  • Unbalanced or falling cargo
  • Spills and water egress on flooring
  • Debris and/or cargo cluttering the walking areas within loading docks
  • Creeping trailers due to weight changes as cargo is loaded and unloaded
  • Forklifts and other heavy machinery routinely moving about the loading dock area
  • Elevated trailers and cargo storage areas, increasing fall risks
  • Truckers pulling away from loading docks before cargo has been fully unloaded or loaded
  • Worker or driver inexperience

Keep in mind that different loading docks can have distinct risks — and that the best way to minimize those risks is to follow some basic safety tips for loading and unloading cargo.

6 Safety Tips for Properly Loading & Unloading 18-Wheelers

Loading docks are busy places where people, cargo, heavy machinery, and big rigs are constantly in motion. That can create all sorts of obvious and hidden dangers. And it’s the ready why everyone in these areas — from truck drivers to warehouse staff and loading dock workers — should prioritize safety.

To do that, here are some of the best ways to minimize the risk of cargo loading and unloading accidents and injuries.

1. Stabilize the truck. 

18-wheelers should be brought to a complete stop, with parking brakes properly activated, before cargo is loaded onto or unloaded off of trucks. Trailer restraint systems and wheel choking systems can be used to prevent trailer creep and stop drivers from taking off before trailers have been fully loaded or unloaded.

2. Use dock levelers & other safety equipment.

A dock leveler closes the gap between a loading dock and a trailer that are different heights. In fact, because the height of trailers can change, moving up as cargo is unloaded (and weight is reduced) or down as more cargo is loaded onto trucks (and they get heavier), dock levelers can keep trailers stable and at the same height as these weight fluctuations occur.

Keep in mind that hydraulic dock levelers can be safer to use than their mechanical counterparts, which create their own injury risks and tend to have higher failure rates.

Along with dock levelers, using other safety equipment — like conveyor belts, bumpers, and well-placed mirrors — can also help cut down the risk of loading dock accidents and injuries.

3.  Use proper lifting techniques.

Limit the risk of strains, sprains, and back injuries by using lifting best practices, including engaging the core and maintaining a neutral back. Also, before any lifting begins, take a moment to assess whether lifting that cargo alone makes sense or whether it’s better to get other hands or heavy equipment involved.

4. Report spills or water egress ASAP.

Any liquids on loading dock floors can mean slips, falls, and severe injuries. So, report any spillage to the foreman or manager at the loading dock so that these can be cleaned ASAP.

5. Stay alert & communicate.

With all of the hustle and bustle at loading docks, things can change quickly — and you may not be working around others who are as careful, experienced, or responsible as you may be. So, stay alert to your environment and stay in communication with the loading dock workers in your vicinity. This can help you be informed and responsive, so you can take the right safety actions, no matter what’s happening around you.

6. Follow all loading dock safety protocols.

Read the signs and follow the rules of the loading dock. Those rules are in place for a reason, and loading dock workers will likely expect truckers to be doing certain things or to be in specific areas. The better you can follow the rules and do what’s expected of you at the loading dock, the lower your risk of an accident and injuries will likely be.

Bonus Tip: Regularly review loading dock safety.

This can include everything from general safety best practices to how to use specific safety equipment, the best ways to lift heavy items, and how to properly balance and secure cargo.

Loading Dock Accidents & Safe Cargo Loading: The Bottom Line

Staying up to date with loading dock safety can go a long way toward keeping you safe and preventing cargo loading and unloading injuries. Still, you can’t control every circumstance or individual at a loading dock, and sometimes, accidents can happen. When they do, it’s essential to get information about your rights and potential legal options as soon as possible.

If you have a claim and you’re entitled to compensation, you’ll have limited time to seek it, and the sooner you get started, the better.