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September is here, and we National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) employees have put away our Labor Day picnics to get back to the work of protecting the American labor force…. And, of course, celebrating N95 Day! Right?

Yes and no. You see, this year is special. This year marks an important anniversary in the history of respiratory protection. One century ago, the U.S. Bureau of Mines initiated the first respirator certification program in the United States. Today, the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) carries out those evaluation and testing duties in order to protect workers who rely on personal protective equipment (PPE). Therefore, as we recognize this important milestone, we are also using this event as an opportunity to expand N95 Day into an annual observance that will include all types of NIOSH-approved respirators.

Welcome to the first Respiratory Protection Week, September 3-6, 2019!

As we celebrate 100 Years of Respiratory Protection, this first Respiratory Protection week will specifically highlight information pertaining to the rich history and exciting future of respiratory protection. Amidst our reminiscing about the past and looking to the future, this observance will be chalked full of tools and tips for the “right now” of respiratory protection from both NIOSH and the dozens of partners who have pledged to recognize and spread the word about this special observance.

Where to begin?

Be sure to check out our Respiratory Protection Week landing page, where you can find links to new NIOSH products, webinar registration, and general event happenings. Specifically, we want to encourage workers in fields of firefighting and healthcare to check out this year’s two webinars. We are offering a webinar on September 3 to discuss Respiratory Protection Advancements and Potential Options for Firefighters. For our healthcare audience, on September 5, NIOSH is teaming up with presenters from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) for a webinar to discuss the current state of knowledge of PAPRs in Healthcare: Facing Challenges using the Current State of Knowledge.

Late to the game?

Perhaps you didn’t catch this article in time to register and attend one of the webinars above. Don’t worry, a link will be available after the observance on the Respiratory Protection Week landing page.

As we honor the history of respiratory protection, we also want to look to the future. We are hosting a virtual poster session, highlighting some of own, and our partners, research efforts. You can read the poster abstracts and click to watch short presentations on each poster, which will be available all week (and beyond!).

A look at the history

Respiratory protection has a surprisingly long, complex history. We did our best to offer the highlights of that history on our new History of Respiratory Protection webpage. This page is a must-read for all history buffs who also have a professional relationship with respiratory protection.

This year we truly do try to cover a little bit of everything, whether you are interested in the complexities of Respirator Fit Capability Test in Enhancing the Efficacy of Filtering Facepiece (See this month’s web edition of the Synergist!) or are just trying to answer some basic questions … like what even are all the different types of respirators? We hope that you will find information to help make your daily work life, or that of your employees, a little bit safer.

In addition to the observance landing page, you will find information sources via social media, using #100yrsRespirators on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We invite you to join to conversation, pass on valuable information, and have a little bit of fun with us along the way!


Updated NFPA guidelines mean facilities must reevaluate how they perform thermal imaging tests.

A new era has arrived for electrical equipment maintenance, and worker safety is predominant. The days of suiting up in personal protective equipment (PPE) and hoping for the best are over. The NFPA 70E which deals with how to reduce risk through safe work practices on equipment under “abnormal” conditions and when the likelihood of shock exposure, arcing fault and arc flash are heightened have been updated. One of the standout features, The Hierarchy of Risk Control Methods are no longer optional; they have been made mandatory. These requirements apply to any energized electrical work task to help mitigate exposure and reduce risk. The Hierarchy must be applied in sequence to eliminate the inherent risk or reduce it to as low as reasonably practicable. The Hierarchy of Risk Control is made of 6 control levels – Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls, Awareness, Administrative, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Each control level must be considered fully and eliminated asan option before moving to the next lower, less effective control within the hierarchy.

For many routine maintenance inspections, thermal imagery has become a staple analytical and diagnostic tool. “With thermography, we can’t see through a cabinet, equipment must be energized and operational and we need to see the connection directly in order to see a hot spot,” Lammert explains. “So, we need to do it either with the door open, energized, and with the proper PPE on; or we can install IR windows which minimizes the worker’s exposure to risk.”

Adding IR Windows to panel covers or electrical cabinets allows technicians to efficiently perform thermal imaging inspections on energized equipment under “normal conditions with all hinged doors closed, covers on and guards in place; workers exposure to any hazard(s) has been greatly reduced. IR Windows protect workers against arc flash accidents because they maintain a sealed barrier between the worker and the connected equipment.


With recent HSE statistics prompting The Guardian to state that Britain’s death toll from asbestos is at ‘crisis level’, Neil McKinley, personal injury solicitor at JMP Solicitors, suggests it’s now more important than ever to recognise the risks of asbestos poisoning in the workplace.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed earlier this year that the recorded number ‘deaths by industrial disease’ in England and Wales had risen from 1,878 recorded in 1995 to 2,709 in 2018.

The task of removing asbestos from the insulation of old buildings has been ongoing for many years, but the effects of poisoning can take a long time to develop and can include everything from fibrotic lung disease such as asbestosis through to lung cancer.

Neil McKinley said: “According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) no amount of asbestos exposure is safe and even the smallest amount can prove detrimental to health.

“Asbestos is defined as a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres which can be dangerous when dealt with inappropriately. Workplace risk assessments need to be completed to avoid employees having contact with toxic asbestos fibres, as inhaling asbestos dust can cause a number of severe lung conditions, which in extreme cases, can further develop into cancer.

“Therefore, those working within an industry where exposure has been or is still possible, extreme precaution is vital.’’

Here are five signs that you are at risk of asbestos poisoning at work:

1. Nature of occupation

Certain occupations mean employees are more likely to be exposed to toxic dust, due to the work environment and responsibilities within these job roles. Workers in construction, shipyards and factories are among those facing a higher possibility of being exposed to asbestos. Professions with no permanent place of work, such as electricians, firefighters and auto mechanics, are also likely to find themselves at risk as they work in so many different environments.

2. Age of the building

The peak period for asbestos installation was before 1970, with asbestos being fully banned in 1999. If you have been working in a building built before this time, it may be worth getting a check-up and calling for the environment to be checked for asbestos if it hasn’t been already. Those who have worked in the building and construction industries, particularly in the 1970s to late 90s, are at a higher risk of having encountered asbestos. Some job roles require employees to visit various sites that may be putting them at risk and although asbestos is no longer being used in buildings, it can still remain in older buildings so it’s best to be vigilant.

3. Working with asbestos-containing materials

Asbestos is dangerous even in the smallest amounts – if material containing the asbestos fibres is chipped, drilled or broken, it can release a fine dust. In case of having to work with such materials, it is essential to have been made aware of this fact to ensure you take care in not touching or breaking the asbestos. In addition, taking showers before returning home is essential to avoid endangering family members.

4. Inadequate protection by employers

Your employer has a duty of care in protecting you against harmful substances and ensuring your safety in the workplace. It is essential that all employees have been provided not only with safety equipment but also thorough instructions, information and training. If none of these have been addressed, it puts you at a higher risk of asbestos-related illness, especially when occupations involve working closely with asbestos.

5. Working near contaminated job sites

Although you may not be working on a live asbestos site, you may be within close proximity of one. It is important that your employer outlines the risk of working near sites that may contain the toxic fibre in order to prevent yourself and those around you from asbestos poisoning. Asbestos remains in the air for hours, putting anyone nearby in danger of inhaling or ingesting it. It is therefore vital to be aware of your surrounding working environment.


The public comment period for the proposed revision of ANSI/ISEA Z87.1, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices is now open – but only until September 30, 2019.

This widely-recognized standard, codified by OSHA and other authorities having jurisdiction, establishes criteria related to the performance requirements, testing, and permanent marking protectors to minimize the occurrence and severity or prevention of injuries to the eye and face from such hazards as impact, non-ionizing radiation and liquid splash exposures in occupational and educational environments including, but not limited to, machinery operations, material welding and cutting, chemical handling, and assembly operations.

PUBLIC REVIEW COPY – ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices



Falls from height accounted for 35 workplace fatalities during 2017/18, according to recent statistics released by the HSE. Matthew Bailey, Divisional Manager, Inspection and Certification, at HCL Safety, says that the potential risks can be reduced with thorough preparation and close attention to detail. Here, he offers some top tips and explains why professional inspection and certification can contribute to safer working.

Pay attention to legislation

A deep understanding of all relevant legislation is required, which will not only help to mitigate potential risks but help ensure that those responsible are acting in accordance with HSE guidance.

Always carry out a comprehensive pre-use inspection

Checking whether all relevant certification is in place is essential. Annual inspections and formal checks should also be carried out by third party suppliers on a regular basis. Typically, this is annually, but it depends on the application and frequency of use.

Mitigate the risks

Follow the hierarchy of control for working at height which means, if at all possible, eliminate the risk entirely. If it’s unavoidable, then select collective measures to help prevent falls. If this isn’t possible, then minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by working in fall restraint. Working in fall arrest should be a last resort.

Select the right equipment for the right job

For work to be carried out safely and efficiently, the absolute right equipment for the job must be in place. All equipment must also be compatible with each other, such as PPE and engineered systems. It is vital to recognise that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will often not improve employee wellbeing or safety.

And make sure it’s high quality

All equipment used should be designed and manufactured in compliance with essential health and safety requirements. Achieve peace of mind that this is the case by partnering with a quality, reputable manufacturer and choose equipment based on the job at hand: Can it be done from ground level? What space is available? What are the risks? Asking pertinent questions will help when selecting equipment and ultimately, help mitigate risks.

Have a rescue plan in place

Importantly, when working within fall arrest, together with all relevant PPE, a rescue plan, in accordance with section seven of the Working at Height Regulations 2005, https://www.shponline.co.uk/construction/who-is-responsible-for-working-at-height/ must be in place. Assistance in the development and implementation of a comprehensive rescue plan is a typical by-product of top-quality training.

Do nothing without training

Employers have a responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 https://www.shponline.co.uk/legislation-and-guidance/health-and-safety-at-work-1974/ to provide suitable information, instruction and training for their employees. Training provides the confidence, knowledge and skills required to carry out their work safely and efficiently.

Got your PPE?

PPE plays a vital role in mitigating the potential risks associated with working at height. The PPE chosen should be appropriate for the job at hand, safe and comfortable. A more comfortable worker typically makes for a more productive worker.


Washington — OSHA is requesting input on potential revisions to Table 1 of its respirable crystalline silica standard for construction, according to a Request for Information slated for publication in the Aug. 15 Federal Register.

Table 1 includes the task or equipment, engineering/work practice control methods, and required respiratory protection/minimum assigned protection factors for all shifts.


“OSHA seeks information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently listed on Table 1,” the agency states in an Aug. 14 press release. “The agency is also requesting information about other construction equipment and tasks that generate silica that it should consider adding to Table 1, along with information about their associated engineering and work practice control methods.”

Additionally, OSHA is considering potential revisions to paragraph (a)(3) of the silica standard for general industry “to broaden the circumstances under which general industry and maritime employers would be permitted to comply with the silica standard for construction as an alternative to the general industry standard.”

The deadline to comment is Nov. 13. Any planned revisions to the silica standards will be published in the Federal Register at a later date.

“Information submitted will allow OSHA to consider new developments and enhanced control methods for equipment that generates exposures to silica, and provide additional data on exposures to silica from equipment and tasks using a variety of control methods under different workplace conditions,” the release states. “Expanding Table 1 to include additional engineering and work practice control methods, equipment, and tasks could provide employers with more flexibility and reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining protections for employees.”


As far as workplace safety goes, there’s no difference in injuries suffered by temps or full-time employees doing the same job, right? New information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says, not necessarily.

In its first look at safety for workers in the gig economy, BLS says the proportion of falls, slips and trips that caused fatalities was 71% higher in what the agency calls “independent workers” compared to all other workers.

For independent workers, fatalities from exposure to harmful substances or environments were 18% more likely, and deaths from contact with objects or equipment were 25% more likely.

During 2016-17, independent workers accounted for 12% of all workplace fatalities.

The occupation with the largest number of fatalities to independent workers was heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (173 deaths), followed by first-line supervisors for construction and extraction workers (95 deaths), and then construction laborers (79 deaths).

BLS notes independent workers are considered to be an at-risk group because of their changing employment situations, which puts them at greater risk for poorer workplace safety and health.

Why are these workers at greater risk?

  • They’re assigned more hazardous work, and because of their employment situations, they’re more reluctant to object
  • They’re more likely to lack specific training
  • They’re less likely to have access to sufficient PPE
  • When it comes to workers hired through an agency, there’s sometimes confusion about who handles safety training – the agency or host employer, and
  • Due to a lack of paid sick leave, independent workers are more likely to work while sick which increases the chance of injury.

    What can employers do to protect independent workers?

  • Figure out ahead of time who is responsible for workplace safety training (agency or host employer)
  • Make sure there’s a good flow of information about injuries between staffing agencies and host employers, and
  • Host employers should provide independent workers with safety training that’s identical to what full-time employees doing the same work receive.

    Note: BLS’s definition of independent workers includes not only people hired from an agency but also independent contractors, on-call employees and day laborers.



  • A quick identification of six electrical hazards to watch out for and how to reduce risk.

    The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) reported that there were 2,210 non-fatal electrical injuries in 2017. This was an increase of 35% as compared to 2016. These injuries could have been avoided by understanding common electrical hazards and conducting a regular electrical inspection. First, let’s go over the six mostcommon electrical hazards and how you can prevent or eliminate them:

    Overhead Power Lines

    They carry high voltages and can cause severe burns to the workers. Any contact with overhead power lines can result in electrocution. It is important to maintain distance from the overhead power lines and install safety barriers.

    Damaged Equipment

    Make sure all the tools and equipment are thoroughly checked for cuts, cracks, and damages on cords and wires. Replace or repair the damaged equipment immediately. Exposure to damaged tools can be extremely dangerous.

    Inadequate Wiring and Overloaded Circuits

    If you use wires of inappropriate size for current, it can cause overheating and electrical fires. Use a correct wire that is suitable for the required operation. Never overload an outlet and always use proper circuit breakers.

    Exposed Electrical Parts

    Exposed electrical parts may include open power distribution units, temporary lightning or detached insulation parts. These parts can cause shocks and burns. Secure the electrical parts with proper guarding mechanism and repair expose parts immediately.

    Improper Grounding

    You can eliminate the risk of electrocution by properly grounding the equipment. Never remove the metallic ground pin as it can return unwanted voltage to the ground.

    Damaged Insulation

    Damaged insulation can cause fires, shocks, and burns. Replace the damaged insulation and turn off all the power before doing so. Never cover the damaged insulation with electrical tape.

    How to Reduce Risk by Implementing Hierarchy of Controls:


    It is the most effective hazard control and it involves removing the hazard physically. For example, you can move the power control station from a raised platform to the ground level. This makes sure that the employees do not have to work at heights and risk a fall.


    Substitution is the second most effective hazard control. Here, you will have to replace a severe hazard with something that does not produce any hazard. Examples would be substituting floor paint with textured floor to prevent slips and falls or replacing lead-based paint with titanium white. For this hazard control to be effective, the replacement must not produce another hazard.

    Engineered Controls

    Next in the line comes engineered controls. It does not eliminate the hazards but helps in isolating people from hazards. It involves employing a physical barrier between the workers and the hazard.Some examples include machine guards, railings or locked-out machines. The cost of engineered controls would be higher initially but they result in minimizing future costs.

    Administrative Controls

    This is when you change the way people work in the facility. You can use specific policies that help in limiting employee exposure to a hazard.Administrative controls include employee training, procedural changes, installation of signs or putting up warning labels.

    Personal Protective Equipment

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes protective clothing and equipment that limit employee injuries from a harmful event. These include gloves, steel-toed boots, hard hats, arc-rated clothing, high-visibility clothing, a fall harness, and safety glasses. This is the least effective type of hazard control.

    Identifying electrical hazards and raising awareness about the same goes a long way in preventing electrical accidents. You can hit your safety goals by implementing the right measures within the facility. Never discount the electrical dangers present in your facility and constantly work towards mitigating the risks to create a safe working environment.


    Forklift safety needs to be a top priority in manufacturing and warehouse facilities.

    Forklifts are constantly in motion, playing a significant role in the world of commerce. With that notion, keeping safety top of mind is critical in material handling.

    Almost 100,000 accidents happen each year around forklifts. While even one injury or incident resulting from the misuse of forklifts is too many, there are tools and methods that can help create a safe environment and help avoid future occurrences. Some contributing factors to watch out for in helping to prevent accidents are workspace layout and design, inadequate training and improper maintenance. It’s essential to incorporate the right safety techniques in these key areas.


    Best practices in warehouse/pedestrian safety begin with the design of the workspace and understanding what the material flow and its frequency and volume is intended to be. A poorly designed material flow and aisle layout can be main contributors to forklift accidents.

    If a facility is operating multiple forklifts, whether it be the same model or different classes of trucks, make sure the design is built out effectively. Fleet managers may need to segregate the forklifts, so they are not traveling where they don’t belong. The workplace should be very organized and visually easy to manage. This can help contribute to a safer work environment. The design also needs to take into consideration the model of the truck in operation. Many trucks are not applicable for a particular environment. For instance, a class IV or V truck is just too big for a narrow aisle, and its turning radius may not be appropriate for an area designed for a class II vehicle. It’s important to identify the right type of forklift(s) for a specific workspace need.


    According to OSHA, 70% of all forklift accidents could be avoided with proper training and policy. While there is a misconception that a forklift feels similar to driving a car, there are differences. Not only are there multiple classes of forklifts, but each has its own application and environment to which it caters.

    Under OSHA laws and regulations, employers are required to train and evaluate forklift operators. Operator training typically begins in the classroom to understand the safety principles and the fundamentals of forklift operation and maintenance, like the proper way to get on and off the forklift and how to refuel or charge a battery. Training is specific to the model of forklift the operator will be authorized to operate.

    After educational training is complete, operators are then directed to a hands-on/practical interaction with the forklift, where they are placed into a safe environment for evaluation. It’s typically best practice to place the operator in an environment that is similar to what they would be doing, so they can be evaluated effectively. Employers ultimately are required by OSHA to evaluate the operator’s performance in the workplace.

    Retraining also is important for operators who have been in the field for a long time and is required at least once every three years. Many operators who have been in the business for a long time are noticing that a lot has changed over the years, especially related to technology. The skill set is changing as technology becomes more advanced. All drivers can benefit from a refresher training course.

    In addition, service technicians should have not only proper operating training but also proper technical training. This gives them the expertise needed to understand the proper operation, location and function of the safety features designed into the equipment and how to properly troubleshoot, diagnose and repair the truck safely.

    Many suppliers and OEMs are implementing these training methods in-house, but there are other sources that offer training like local community colleges and other third-party businesses. The challenge with using these types of resources is that scheduling does not always align with a facility’s timeline. It may be difficult to get someone trained and certified quickly, so in-house training is a great tool to have. Fleet managers never have to wait to train or retrain that next person, allowing operators and technicians to learn safe operating techniques sooner.


    OSHA regulation requires that every forklift is inspected each day before it is put into operation, which is a very important step. All facilities should have a comprehensive inspection checklist for each operator before the start of the shift. Completing this step fully can be challenging if a company has multiple drivers sharing a forklift throughout the work day. If something is identified that can affect forklift safety, it should be reported immediately, and the forklift should not be placed into service until it has been inspected and repaired. The same applies if the issue is found during the shift.

    While paper systems are still heavily used, there has been a move towards robust technology that electronically ties the operator to the forklift. These types of systems can also track when the inspection checklist has been completed.

    While daily checklists are required, it’s also important to implement a routine maintenance program. There are some potential serious consequences to operator and pedestrian safety if critical safety equipment or systems, like brakes or hydraulics, were to fail. Scheduled, preventive maintenance is not just a matter of replacing filters and oil, it includes checking key safety points like brakes, steering, emergency shut-off features and hydraulic systems.

    It’s crucial to employ trained and certified technicians to inspect and maintain the forklifts. The biggest factors are performing maintenance at a prescribed time that is outlined in a truck’s service manual and making sure technicians are equipped to service the machines.

    There are other risks that can contribute to diminished safety. Operators should always maintain control of the forklift and avoid turning with an elevated load. Never travel with an elevated load.

    In addition, excessive traveling speed can also have a negative effect on safety. Speed can be regulated with different controls on the forklift. What’s important is that each company should evaluate its own situation and set speed limits that make sense for its operators and the workspace environment. What’s just right for a lumberyard may not be the same as a company in the food and beverage industry.

    Most of the time, facilities will have operators and other workers around the forklift in the same area. Dedicated pedestrian walkways or color-coded surfaces that indicate areas for driving and walking are a good idea to help navigate parts of a facility. If this cannot be accomplished, it’s critical that non drivers and operators stay alert and always watch out for each other including when visibility is limited.

    There’s no doubt that over the years forklift technological advancements have helped improve safety, and OEMs are offering more features and options to help mitigate hazards in the workplace. Safety lighting such as blue spotlights and/or red zone lights being added to the equipment are relatively inexpensive while being very effective. Both types of lights can help pedestrians and others in the area where forklifts are working be more aware that a forklift is near them and to stay alert. Lighting can even be retrofitted to older forklifts and still be very effective.

    The growth of telematics is a key trend and many telematic options can be applied to forklifts. Telematics can help monitor and record driver behavior and results and can also track collisions, speed and location. This type of data is used to give proper feedback to employers and drivers, so they’re able to use it to modify behavior. Data can also shed light on the warehouse itself and whether or not improvements to the design and layout should be made.

    Other technological features like object detection sensors and cameras are also becoming more prevalent to help supplement the operator’s direct visibility. The object detection sensors found on forklifts are very similar to the ones applied to automobiles and can detect objects nearby. The beeping sound emerging from the object detection system helps communicate to the operator and identify objects in the travel path.

    There has also been an uptick in cameras and monitors being added to trucks to increase the operators’ direct visibility, both of their surroundings as well as to enhance their productivity and ergonomics. A 360-degree camera system provides a bird’s-eye view of where they are and what’s around them. Cameras mounted to forks or carriages help operators more accurately and efficiently engage pallets in high racks without having to crane their necks to see.

    Ergonomics is becoming more important to the design of the forklift, so that it’s easier to drive and more comfortable for the operator. Fingertip controls are becoming more commonplace, especially in Europe. While it is an option, operating a forklift that is ergonomically designed can help improve productivity, especially in instances where the operator has been driving the machine for an extended period of time.

    It’s important to note that there are ways to help create a safe environment every day. Determine what’s best for your operation when it comes to the workplace environment, how many and what types of forklifts your workers use each day and what the material flow will be, what can be done to improve maintenance, and whether or not you should use in-house training to get their operators in the field quicker.


    The time to put on your seat belt is not after you’ve been in a car accident.

    In 2017, there were 270,000 injuries reported in the transportation and warehousing industry. The same industry also saw 819 deaths, a number only surpassed by the construction industry. The number of preventable fatal work injuries in transportation and warehousing grew 5.3% from 2016 to 2017.1

    What do these statistics have to do with loading docks? More than 25% of all industrial accidents happen at the loading dock, and for every accident, there are about 600 near misses.2 If your job has anything to do with loading docks, these figures are meant to help you understand how important loading dock safety really is.

    Forklift Fall-Through

    One of the most dangerous types of accidents that occur at the loading dock is forklift fall-through. This type of accident happens as a trailer is being loaded or unloaded. Sometimes, the momentum of the forklift transfers to the trailer, causing it to move forward until it separates from the dock leveler. Other times, the truck driver thinks loading or unloading is complete and pulls away from the dock prematurely. When the forklift leaves the trailer, it falls into the gap. The forklift driver often falls out or tries to escape, and the forklift falls on him or her. The average forklift weighs as much as three cars.

    When a trailer backs up to a loading dock, the most common types of vehicle restraints capture or block the trailer’s rear impact guard (RIG), sometimes called an ICC bar, securing the trailer to the loading dock until the restraint is disengaged.

    Wheel Chocks Are Not the Answer

    OSHA states that companies with warehouses and distribution centers are responsible for the safety of their employees, which obviously includes dock personnel, and requires that all vehicles are, at minimum, restrained by wheel chocks prior to and during loading and unloading.

    If someone believes wheel chocks are an acceptable substitute for vehicle restraints, he or she must ensure that every trailer is properly chocked, which is rare. In one facility, every dock position might have an immaculate set of wheel chocks that are always stored in their cradle, but they’re only immaculate because they aren’t used very often. Dock personnel at another facility might believe truck drivers should chock their own trailers, but all they’re legally required to do is set their brakes.

    At another facility, perhaps wheel chocks are not even available. They were there at some point in time, but on a frigid winter day they weren’t returned to their cradle and the snowplow picked them up and ripped them off the wall. At yet another facility, some of the chocks have simply broken down from years of use and were never replaced. In each case, the company is not only risking OSHA fines, but also the safety of its dock personnel.

    Wheel chocks also must be applied firmly against the closest set of wheels to the dock, or they may not prevent trailer creep. This requires more than just casually tossing the chock near the trailer wheels. A gravelly drive or wet or icy conditions also reduce the effectiveness of wheel chocks. To top it all off, in most cases, trucks can simply pull trailers right over wheel chocks, so they’re generally not very good at preventing early pull-away.

    Communication is Key

    Securing a trailer to the loading dock is only part of the reason vehicle restraints are preferred over wheel chocks. Communication between dock personnel and truck drivers is essential for maintaining safety in the loading dock, and wheel chocks do nothing in this area. Vehicle restraints often include light communication systems that know when the trailer is restrained and use interior and exterior lights to communicate this to the truck driver and dock personnel so loading or unloading can safely begin.

    Safety is an Investment

    Anyone who thinks vehicle restraints are too expensive should consider that loading dock accidents cost companies an estimated $675 million every year,3 and the average cost of a worker injury accident is about $189,000.4 A better way to spend $189,000 is to install automatic vehicle restraints and greatly reduce the chances of a forklift fall-through accident in the first place.

    There is also a possibility that installing restraints at your loading docks may lower your insurance rates. “When you install restraints, you’re acting to not only reduce the chances of employee injury accidents, but also damage to equipment, vehicles, and cargo from accidents,” says Schulze. “It’s definitely worth a call to your insurance provider.”

    A Chance Not Worth Taking

    It’s been said that forklift fall-through accidents are a one-in-a-million incident. That might not be far from the truth. If a facility has 20 dock positions and each sees 10 trailers per day, and each of those trailers sees 40 forklift entries and exits during loading or unloading, it only takes 25 weeks for this facility to have a million opportunities for a forklift fall-through. Suddenly one-in-a-million feels much too close for comfort.

    Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

    The time to put on your seat belt is not after you’ve been in a car accident. It’s a bit late to install smoke detectors after your home has burned to the ground. If you drive a forklift to load or unload trailers and wheel chocks are all you’ve got, ask your supervisor about vehicle restraints. If you’re a warehouse manager or safety officer, don’t wait until someone gets hurt to put vehicle restraints in the budget. When you install vehicle restraints in your loading docks, rest easy knowing you’ve done the best thing you can do to help minimize the risk of forklift fall-through accidents.


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