Loading docks can be dangerous places to work, especially when adequate safety measures are not taken or when workers are busy or hurried. Roughly one-quarter of injuries in warehouses occur on the loading dock and the vast majority of the accidents reported could have been reported had workers followed safety protocols, proper equipment or devices been made available or been more careful. Whenever heavy machinery is involved in accidents, the injuries are more severe and require longer periods of recovery before workers may return to work— if they can return at all.
The Most Common Causes of Loading Dock Accidents
Numerous people are involved in the loading or unloading of trailers and each person’s actions can have a negative impact on others who must work on the dock. Many accidents are the result of a chain reaction of negligent behavior that ultimately results in the injury of workers and it is worth the additional time to make sure that forklift operators and others occupying the docks are not in harm’s way. Common causes of loading dock accidents include the following.
- The truck driver does not chock the wheels of the trailer and it moves away from the loading platform. Forklift operators often move onto and off of trailers rapidly while carrying heavy loads. This can cause the trailer to rock forward or backward and if the wheels are not secured, it may move away from the dock while the forklift is entering or exiting.
- The forklift driver does not distribute loads evenly. It is important to distribute the weight being loaded on a trailer evenly not only to make it safer to transport but also to prevent pallets from falling onto the workers entering and exiting the trailer.
- Collisions with workers or other forklifts. When forklift operators are in a hurry, they may race into and out of trailers without checking to see whether other forklifts or bystanders are present. It is important that whenever a worker is passing a loading platform that he or she check to see whether someone is backing out, but it is also the duty of the forklift operators to be aware of whether there is any object or person present on the platform when backing up.
- The forklift falls off the dock. This is often the result of the truck driver pulling away while the forklift operator is still working or failing to chock the wheels prior to loading or unloading. It is the responsibility of the driver to be fully aware of when it is safe to pull away from the dock.
Loading Dock Injuries are Often Serious
The injuries suffered in loading dock accidents are severe more often than not. Forklift operators are provided limited protection and are exposed when their forklifts fall from a platform or when objects fall on top of them. Loaders and other employees working on the docks may have even less protection from injuries when caught in the path of forklifts exiting or entering trailers.
The following are some of the most common injuries suffered in these types of accidents.
- Fractures and crushed bones. Many loading dock injuries involve multiple fractures in addition to other serious injuries.
- Spine and neck injuries. These injuries are most prevalent when the forklift falls off the platform because the impact of the forklift often causes the neck to snap backward and the impact of the back against the seat can result in injuries to the spine.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Sudden impacts or changes in direction can cause traumatic brain injuries even if there was no direct contact with the head. The brain may hit the skull and bruise or swell— a condition that often results in complications days or weeks after the injury.
- Death. Loading dock injuries are some of the most lethal injuries suffered because of the force involved and the time it may require to get to the victims safely following an accident.
Loading dock safety is a sensitive subject because statistics show that as many as 70% of loading dock accidents can be prevented. Preventable accidents are unacceptable and it is unfortunate that many corporations are more concerned with keeping costs to a minimum than they are with keeping their employees safe. Whenever such companies cross the line, it is important to hold them accountable.
To learn more about your rights following a workplace accident or how the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can recover the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to, contact us for more information.