Loading Dock Accidents

Feb 10, 2017

Loading Dock Accidents

Some of the most serious and deadly accidents that occur on the job take place on loading docks, which leaves truck drivers and warehouse employees particularly at risk of suffering from debilitating injuries. In order to help avoid serious accidents, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), requires companies to comply with a series of regulations regarding loading dock safety. Unfortunately, accidents still can and do occur at an alarming rate, so if you live in Charlotte and were injured in a loading dock accident, it is important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help walk you through the claims process.

Common Causes

Injuries suffered by warehouse and loading dock workers can range from minor to fatal and while they can occur in any number of ways, injuries are usually the result of one of the following causes:

  • Falls, which are the number one cause of loading dock worker injuries and are often caused by slipping on spills and leaks in the cargo unloading area;
  • Being crushed, which occurs most often when a driver is reversing a semi truck in order to unload cargo and traps a worker against the dock’s edge;
  • Improper lifting techniques, which can also cause serious sprains and strains and often occur when dock workers are attempting to load or unload products too quickly or are not trained in safe handling procedures;
  • Shifting loads, which can cause cargo to fall on workers when they attempt to slide open a truck’s doors prior to unloading and are usually the result of broken straps or pallets or improperly secured cargo;
  • Forklift accidents, which can also cause serious injuries if they fall off of the dock, tip over, or reverse into unsuspecting employees;
  • Pallet or cargo load tip-overs, which can occur when stacked loads on the loading dock become unstable and topple over onto nearby workers;
  • Exposure to hazardous materials, such as carbon dioxide from truck exhaust; and
  • Proximity to loud noises, which often results in hearing loss.

Precautionary Measures 

OSHA regulates all off-highway loading and unloading activities in locations, such as warehouses, shipyards, and plants. For instance, OSHA requires loading dock workers to use wheel chocks or other types of vehicle-restraining devices when loading or unloading trucks. Wheel chocks are wedge-shaped blocks, that when placed in front of a rear tire can prevent trucks from rolling away when being loaded or unloaded. OSHA also warns employees to be cautious when placing blocks and to ensure that blocking materials with cracks, splintered pieces, rounded corners, or dry rot are not used for blocking.

Fork lift operators are also required to take precautions when stacking and transporting equipment by:

  • Centering the load on the forks as close as possible to the mast to minimize the potential for tipping over;
  • Refraining from placing extra weight on the rear of a counterbalanced forklift;
  • Adjusting the load to the lowest position when traveling;
  • Piling and cross-tier stacking loads correctly; and
  • Avoiding overloading because this can significantly impair control and lead to tip-overs.

Because so many injuries are caused by falling cargo, workers are encouraged to take specific steps when stacking cargo, such as:

  • Stacking and leveling lumber on solidly supported bracing;
  • Stacking lumber no more than 16 feet high if handled manually and no more than 20 feet high if stacked by a forklift;
  • Removing all nails from used lumber prior to stacking;
  • Stacking bags and bundles in interlocking rows;
  • Banding boxed materials or securing them with cross ties or shrink wrap;
  • Stacking drums, barrels, and kegs symmetrically;
  • Blocking the bottom tiers of drums or barrels to keep them from rolling;
  • Placing pallets or planks between each tier of barrels to create a flat stacking surface when stacking on end;
  • Observing specific height limitations when stacking materials;
  • Paintings walls or posts with strips to indicate maximum stacking heights; and
  • Ensuring that stacks are stable and self-supporting.

Generally, OSHA also recommends that all employees who work on loading docks take the following precautions:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the edge of the loading dock;
  • Remain alert for tail swing;
  • Ensure that working surfaces are kept clear and clean; and
  • Paint the edges of the dock to improve visibility to drivers.

Loading dock workers are also encouraged to wear protective equipment, including:

  • Gloves;
  • Eye protection;
  • Steel-toed boots;
  • Helmets; and
  • Fluorescent safety vests.

Common Injuries

Unfortunately, even employers and workers who take all possible safety precautions can be injured while on the job. Some of the most common injuries suffered by loading dock workers include:

  • Strains and sprains from lifting loads improperly;
  • Broken bones from falling, being crushed by stacked materials, or being struck by a truck or forklift;
  • Cuts and bruises caused by falling materials;
  • Spinal cord injuries caused by falls or being crushed; and
  • Traumatic brain injury from being struck on the head by falling cargo.

Treating these types of injuries can quickly overwhelm a victim’s finances, so it is important for those who are injured on the job to file a workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible after the accident. In North Carolina, workers’ compensation is a strict liability and exclusive remedy system. This means that employees can only obtain compensation through workers’ compensation and cannot seek damages in court. The upside of this arrangement is that employees are not required to prove fault in order to collect compensation for their losses.

Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Even employees who are careful in performing their job duties can suffer injuries in the workplace. Fortunately, injured employees can collect compensation for medical expenses and lost wages through the state’s workers’ compensation program, so if you live in Charlotte and were recently injured in a loading dock accident, please call us at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., by completing one of our standard contact forms, including your name, email address, phone number, and a brief description of your case and we’ll have a dedicated workers compensation attorney in Charlotte contact you as soon as possible. Members of our legal team can also be reached via live chat.