Loading docks are bustling with activity at big retail stores and warehouses as trucks move consumer goods, parts, and other products in and out of the facility. They can be especially busy at big retail stores, like Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, and Home Depot, where the loading area is smaller than at a factory and more workers are rushing around in a confined work area.
It would be common sense for employers to train employees in the dangers present at loading docks and provide them with safety gear, such as sturdy work shoes, hard hats, eye protection, dust masks, and back supports. Unfortunately, the focus is too often on moving goods, not worker safety, and the result is that many employees suffer serious avoidable injuries and death.
Six Common Causes of Loading Dock Accidents
While both employers and employees in big retail stores must be a team in preventing retail store loading dock accidents, employers must take the lead by understanding the major reasons these dangerous accidents occur and the safety practices necessary to prevent them. Common ways workers are injured at loading docks include:
- Shifting trailer loads. Workers can be injured by falling loads that were not secured properly and shifted in transit when opening the truck door. In addition, if wheel chocks are not used, the truck could roll into employees while they are loading or unloading merchandise.
- Slip and falls. Falls are the most common cause of worker injuries and can happen when employees slip on water, container leaks, debris, or oils from the forklift that are not cleaned up.
- Falls from the edge of the dock. Busy workers often fall off the edge of the dock when the door is not closed or barricaded when the dock is not being used.
- Truck drivers backing into workers. Employees can be crushed between the truck and the dock or under the truck while trying to signal the truck driver or if the truck driver just doesn’t see them, sometimes with fatal results.
- Forklift dangers. Forklift accidents are especially prevalent in loading dock areas, causing injuries to the driver and other employees. Forklifts can back into other employees, fall off the edge of the dock, back into people exiting the trailer, or tip over and crush those near the forklift.
- Lifting. Workers are often rushed due to the fast pace of trucks entering and leaving the dock area—all needing to be quickly loaded and unloaded. In the pressure to move quickly and doing the same job repeatedly, they can suffer back injuries or experience other soft tissue injuries, sometimes resulting in long-term pain.
Even if an employer is a non-subscriber employer—like Target, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, and Home Depot—who has opted out of workers’ compensation, the employer is still responsible for compensating a worker for injuries caused at the store’s loading dock. This is true even if the worker, in the rush of the job, caused his injuries in part by failing to take safety precautions.
If you or a family member has been injured in a workplace accident caused by a non-subscriber employer, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional trauma. Call our experienced legal team at (817) 380-4888 to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.