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Posted by Stephanie on January 16, 2023

A warehouse requires many different components to function properly. Among the most important of these components is a loading dock, which can substantially improve your operational efficiency and productivity.

For instance, slowly unloading items can create a bottleneck that influences the number of goods that can be handled in other warehouse processes. This issue can also result in the staging area being overflowed with goods. While loading docks are essential for many businesses, they also pose many dangers, which is why the right safety procedures must be put in place.

Keep in mind that the standards for loading dock safety and equipment have changed considerably over the past decade. Today, the requirements are much stricter. If you want to avoid the risks that are often present with warehouse loading docks, the following goes into detail about some best practices you can use to optimize your warehouse productivity and safety while also improving loading dock operations.

warehouse dock with yard ramp

What is a Warehouse Loading Dock?

A warehouse loading dock is an exit or entrance point where goods can be loaded and unloaded from trucks. If your business has a warehouse loading dock, this area should be kept efficient at all times. Since the loading dock manages the exact inflow and outflow of different goods, the efficiency of the loading dock is proportional to overall profitability.

Loading docks can have different heights depending on the vehicles that regularly enter your warehouse. Trucks can range anywhere from 30-62″ in height. The average height for warehouse loading docks is around 48-52″.

The trucks that regularly arrive at and depart from your loading dock also determine how wide the dock is. Trucks have a minimum width of around 8′, which means that your loading dock needs to be able to accommodate this specific size. Keep in mind that additional space will be required if you have wider doors, which is why it’s highly recommended that dock width isn’t too high if efficiency would be sacrificed.

How Do Warehouse Loading Docks Work?

Loading docks are areas of a building where vehicles can be loaded and unloaded. Most industrial and commercial buildings contain a loading dock to make sure that goods can be delivered or transported to another destination with ease. It’s possible for a loading dock to be enclosed or flush with the exterior of your building. The loading dock usually provides access to storage and staging areas as well as freight elevators.

Warehouse Loading Dock Safety Operations

There are some inherent risks that must be taken into account to keep items undamaged and prioritize employee safety. The most common incidents that occur at loading docks involve falls from docks and getting struck by hazards. If you integrate the best warehouse loading dock safety operations into your facility, you should notice a drop in the amount of employee injuries that occur.

ware house docks in a line

Dock Scheduling Software

Using dock scheduling software in your facility should improve the efficiency of your loading dock operations by providing carriers with the means of making appointments with a scheduling system. You could also use this software to organize operations around the scheduling system. There are many operating constraints that can be taken into account by dock scheduling software, which include:

  • Commodities accepted
  • Open and close times
  • Trailer types accepted
  • Equipment used
  • Labor resources

Understanding what your daily dock operations will be like allows you to more effectively allocate hours to the outgoing and incoming operations. When implemented correctly, the software should help you avoid under-allocating or over-allocating human resources. Keep in mind that labor expenses can make up around 50-75% of a warehouse’s total budget, which is why you’ll benefit from using these costs more efficiently.

Possible Dangers

According to OSHA, more than 70 incidents occurred on loading docks from 2017-2019. Over 25% of these incidents were fatal. You can take steps to boost safety in your loading dock by understanding the risks and dangers that might occur. Loading dock accidents can be separated into five categories, which include:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Trailer creep
  • Attention and alertness
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Forklift accidents

Proper Ventilation

When employees work on a loading dock, they will often use vehicles and machines that produce harmful and hazardous fumes. If the area doesn’t contain the right amount of ventilation, workers may inhale harmful chemicals that create health risks. In this scenario, the company could be held liable for any injuries or deaths that occur.

Along with fumes, operations on loading docks also involve the loading and unloading of cargo from hot trailers, which can lead to discomfort and dehydration. When these problems persist, a decrease in productivity will likely occur. The discomfort may even result in accidents that cause further injury. Providing your employees with healthy worker conditions can reduce the risks that regularly take place at a warehouse loading dock.

Warehouse Loading Dock Equipment

Along with having enough labor resources, you can also bolster loading dock safety and efficiency with the right equipment. This equipment includes everything from vehicle restraints to dock plates.

conveyor loading dock

Vehicle Restraints

Vehicle restraints are designed to be attached to a trailer’s impact guard to keep vehicle creep from taking place. When properly attached, forklift fall-through will be prevented. These restraints are better than wheel chocks because of their increased safety and easy placement. Wheel chocks are placed manually, which increases the possibility of injuries caused by human error.

Hydraulic Dock Levelers

Hydraulic dock levelers are designed to accommodate various trailer floor heights. This type of equipment is highly beneficial since you can operate it by pushing a button. Workers won’t be tasked with bending down and potentially injuring themselves to operate a mechanical leveler. These devices are also more affordable than mechanical levelers since they don’t require much maintenance.


Conveyors are pieces of equipment that handle the transportation of freight or cargo from one location to another. When performing loading dock operations, a warehouse conveyor system will make it considerably easier to move cargo from the truck or trailer to the staging room. Once installed, conveyors should significantly increase warehouse efficiency by reducing the amount of human intervention that’s required.

Dock Plates

The purpose of a dock plate is to make sure that the gap between the loading dock and trailer is bridged. These plates are usually built with aluminum and are meant to be portable, which is a benefit you won’t have access to when using a permanent leveler. The main benefits of dock plates include:

  • Perfect for pallet jacks and hand trucks
  • Contain a lip length of 11 inches with an optional 14-inch length
  • Manufactured and tested to be in compliance with the ANSI Standard MH30.2
  • Ideal for light loading dock applications
  • The plates can be secured between the trailer and dock with bolt-on steel legs

Dock Boards

Dock boards are mainly used with forklifts and other heavy-duty warehouse machinery. They can be constructed from steel or aluminum. When selecting dock boards for your loading dock, consider obtaining ones that include curbs on each side to keep equipment runoffs from taking place.

Once the dock board has been put in place, you’ll be able to more efficiently use a forklift to perform loading and unloading processes. You should notice improvements in efficiency, productivity, and safety. All dock boards are available with legs, curbs, and a standard lifting chain. If you want to keep workers safe, dock boards significantly improve the safety of a loading dock.

Yard Ramps

Yard ramps provide you with added efficiency and flexibility in a loading dock. These ramps are heavy-duty but portable. Even a single mobile ramp can extend your capabilities and improve your productivity. Since the ramp is mobile, there’s no need to have a permanent ramp installed, which will save you a considerable amount of space and money.

You’ll also receive equipment that gives you a more versatile operation. If you need added capacity, a forklift ramp can be put into action in an instant. If you need to increase the amount of space that’s available in the facility, you can alter the angle or position of the forklift ramp by simply moving it out of the way.

Why Choose QMH?

When you have any loading dock inquiries and would like to learn more about how to improve the safety of your warehouse, QMH can provide you with the end-to-end solutions you need to keep your workers safe and boost productivity at the same time. The unique solutions we offer include everything from managing the initial permit approval to full-service execution for your warehouse or facility. Call us today to find out more about our warehouse solutions.

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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.