Loading Docks. Not Always As Safe As We Think They Are.

Loading Docks. Not Always As Safe As We Think They Are.
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When you think of a person falling at a ReStore, you may think of a slip on a wet substance spilled on the floor, or someone tripping over something sticking into the aisle, or maybe a trip over a loose floor mat. It’s true, these are all common ways that people fall at ReStores, and all can lead to serious injuries.  But  an area of ReStores that doesn’t get the attention it deserves (aka, goes overlooked) is the loading dock – that area where donated items are dropped off and sometimes where customers linger in hopes of getting first dibs before items make it out to the sales floor.

With a typical ground-to-dock height of around four feet, a fall off the loading dock can be just as serious as a fall inside the ReStore, and can result from everything from cuts and bruises to broken bones and head trauma.  One wrong step and you can be lying flat on the pavement in pain in a matter of seconds.

What can you do to prevent falls from the loading dock at your ReStore?

For an outside loading dock, according to OSHA interpretations (55 FR 13407; April 10, 1990) employers are not required to install guardrail systems on the working sides of a loading dock if the employer can demonstrate that the presence of a guardrail would interfere with successfully loading and unloading materials. However, all other sides of a loading dock are required to be guarded. Therefore, solid guarding must be installed in areas not being used for unloading vehicles and receiving donations.

These photos illustrate the proper use of guarding your dock in areas that are being used for unloading vehicles:

Removable chain system    
 chan1    chain
Weighted portable railing system       Liftgate railing system
 portablerailing    liftgaterailing
Pipe railing system   Screen system
 piperailing    screensystem


When installing one of these systems, it’s important to remember these OSHA requirements (based upon OSHA 1910.23):

  • There is a maximum of 8’ between vertical posts [metal only, not 2×4 materials, see 1910 (e)(3)(i) through (e)(3)(iii)]
  • The top rail is at 42” above surface
  • The mid rail is at 21” above surface
  • The system is designed and constructed to withstand 200 pounds from any direction, including all anchors (Note – The most common failure of any railing system is the anchoring of the post to the wall or dock.  Therefore, it is important to emphasize that all fasteners & secure points are part of the overall railing system and must meet or exceed the 200 pound requirements)
  • The system is constructed of 1.5” or larger pipe
  • With respect to removable sections/gates, the longest section is 8’

The objective is to install a system that provides the greatest protection for persons working at the dock, while still making it easy to receive and offload donations.  For an inside loading dock, the best way to prevent falls is to keep the dock doors closed when not unloading a vehicle.  As with all areas, proper training and supervision are critical elements to keeping those working at the ReStore safe and accident free.

If you have any questions about this article, or would like assistance with respect to your ReStore’s Safety Plan, please contact the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002, or HFHI U.S. Safety Specialist, Don Hartle, at (404) 420-6730. Thank you for your dedication to keeping your ReStore safe!


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