Any communication system that offers a quick visual read to drivers and your employees will help ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

A standard wall box with green and red lights tells drivers whether it's safe to approach the dock, and lets workers inside know when they may approach the trailer.

Some lighted communications systems go beyond the box. In addition to the control-box lights, lighting is placed near the top of the dock opening, as well as along the sides of the leveler on the floor. It provides safety information at-a-glance to the forklift operator, whether he or she is inside the building or inside the trailer.

Protecting Open Doors

An open dock can present a hazard to employees and could even compromise supply chain integrity if, for instance, your facility is involved in shipping food products. Dock barrier systems and dock shelters can reduce these risks. 


A dock barrier provides a visual cue for employees that the loading dock is open but a truck is not present. If you plan on making a dock barrier part of your safety strategy, look for one that can withstand the weight of a moving, loaded forklift.


A dock shelter that goes around the dock opening closes any gaps that might exist between the trailer's edge and the door. It keeps debris such as leaves or snow from getting into your facility or the truck bed, and it keeps the temperature constant. That's particularly important if you're working with refrigerated goods during the warm summer months. Additionally, dock shelters eliminate the exchange of inside and outside air, which reduces the chances that equipment or goods will be damaged. A dock shelter with a complete, four-sided seal will be the most effective option.

Creating a Smooth Transition

You might not think of back pain as a repetitive-motion injury. But when it comes to the effects of "dock shock," that's exactly what it is. 

When a forklift operator enters and exits a trailer via a leveler, he or she experiences a series of jolts and joint shocks several times a day. Over time, it can lead to chronic back pain or spine injury, along with lost wages and reduced productivity.

Not all levelers are the same, however. Look for a model that provides a smooth transition. It will be more likely to protect your employees' health while reducing wear and tear on your equipment.

Consider Expert Assessment

The equipment and configuration options can seem overwhelming. Consider bringing in a loading-dock safety-systems expert to help you assess your operation and determine which options will work best for your situation. He or she will need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • What types of trailers are coming to your loading dock?
  • What is your current system for securing them?
  • What is your current communication system?
  • How is the dock currently secured?

Then, with an understanding of your sequence of operations, the loading-dock safety-systems expert will be able to determine your risks and recommend improvements to both your equipment and process. 

When you have components that work together with your process, you'll have a fully customized, systematic safety strategy that can help reduce loading-dock dangers.

Walt Swietlik is director of customer relations and sales support at Rite-Hite Corp.