- The Ultimate Guide to Safe Loading and Unloading of Vehicles
Before we discuss loading and unloading vehicles safely, the first thing to ask is, what is loading and unloading?
Simply expressed, loading and unloading is the movement of goods to and from a vehicle, and the completion of the paperwork that goes with it. Logistics personnel should learn how to prepare goods safely, position them, lift them and restrain them when loading, and how to unload them safely when they have arrived at their destination.
This guide looks at how to load trucks and trailers safely as well as at load securing, the different hazards logistics workers face when loading or unloading a vehicle, and the role of employers and employees in the loading and unloading vehicles safely. We also explore some of the issues operators and their workers face when dealing with chemicals.
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loading and unloading hazards
Working in logistics is not only demanding, but also dangerous and workers have to be aware of several different hazards, especially if they’re going to be around transport or have to encounter deliveries of chemicals.
Below are some of the main hazards they face, before we look more closely at transport safety and chemical warehousing:
- machinery can hurt people;
- heavy loads can cause injuries or death;
- moving vehicles can lead to injuries or death;
- loads can shift during transit;
- drivers may drive away too early.
Naturally, logistics involves working with vehicles, so transport safety is a major consideration.
The chances are employees are going to be working with large vehicles in some way as part of logistics operations. Vehicle routes on the site should provide lorries and other large vehicles with enough space to manoeuvre.
A vehicle should always be attended unless the driver has switched the engine off, any mounted equipment has been moved to the ground, the brakes have been applied and the starter key has been removed. The vehicle should also be on firm, even ground.
Reversing, if possible, should be avoided. Ideally, the operator should have a one-way system. Loading and unloading zones should have entrances and exits on either side if they can’t organise a one-way system.
The operator should also have well-positioned, highly visible barriers or bollards for any vehicle that has to reverse up to an edge or structure. These barriers should be able to stop a vehicle from moving at a low speed. White lines on the ground will help to guide the driver as they reverse the vehicle.
Operators should try to keep pedestrians as far away from their logistics operations as possible. Protective barriers at corners, building entrances and exits; raised kerbs to mark pedestrian and non-pedestrian areas; and clear markings to segregate pedestrian and vehicle routes apart; all of these measures will help.
Of course, dealing with chemicals in logistics creates its own set of hazards, and there are special requirements for storing them. Below is a look at some of the rules around addressing chemicals in logistics warehouses.
Employers must aim to protect their employees at risk from substances that can cause fire, explosions or similar energy-releasing incidents. They should conduct a solid risk assessment for any work activities that involve dangerous substances; then remove or reduce the risk; and, if necessary, perform a hazardous area classification exercise.
Performing a risk assessment is straightforward and consists of five simple steps:
- identify the hazard(s);
- identify who the hazard could harm and how it could harm them;
- evaluate the risk and decide on some safety precautions;
- record the findings and implement the safety measures;
- review the assessment and, if necessary, update it.
When goods are arriving at a warehouse, the recipients should already know what is being transported to them. Employees should check the consignment paperwork when the goods arrive and also the integrity of the goods i.e. whether there are any leaks etc.
If an employee can’t identify a substance or material, they shouldn’t transfer it to a storage area. Instead, they should follow the procedures in place for this circumstance and contact the supplier. If the supplier doesn’t respond within a reasonable timeframe, the warehouse should send the goods back. The company returning the goods may have to store them in a remote area in the interim.
Before goods arrive, they should be analysed for the hazards they pose. The warehouse can then direct them to the appropriate part of the warehouse, attend to them and store them in line with local segregation policies. These policies should cover any ignition the goods could cause or the possible escalation of an incident.
Note that it might not always be the chemicals that trigger an incident. Elements such as discarded packaging, pallets or rubbish, set off by an ignited cigarette which an employee or other person in the warehouse area has smoked and then somewhat carelessly discarded, could also cause incidents.
In some warehouses, goods are stacked in blocks instead of being racked. Stacking heights should be limited, and the bottom layer of the stack shouldn’t be overloaded. This prevents the pile from becoming unstable. Ask the material supplier for advice on stacking heights and, in the case of containers such as drums or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), stacking capabilities.
You can find out moreabout chemical warehousing, including aspects such as labelling hazardous substances, on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
safe loading and unloading
Some dangers are easier to spot than others when working in logistics. Anyone involved in the loading and unloading of goods should learn how to conduct their duties safely. Here are some tips for loading and unloading vehicles safely:
- Always park trailers on level ground before loading or unloading them.
- Secure loads so that they don’t move around.
- Spread loads as evenly as possible, regardless of whether you’re loading or unloading, to help keep the vehicle stable. The vehicle should always be as stable as possible.
- If in charge of a vehicle for loading or unloading, make sure it has applied the brakes and has used all of its stabilisers.
- Never overload vehicles. Overloading them causes them to become unstable, hard to steer and less able to brake.
- Never load or unload a vehicle without checking the floor of the loading area is safe. Look for debris, broken boarding, etc and clear it if you see any.
- When loading pallets, the driver should check the pallets are in good condition; that the logistics employees have secured the goods to them well; and that the loads are safe on the vehicle.
- If more than one company will play a part in loading or unloading the vehicle, agree beforehand on a process for the operation
- Exchange information with the haulier if you’re receiving goods so that you can agree a safe unloading process.
The role of employers
Employers should hold consultations with employees in good time on health and safety matters. This means not only supplying the employees with information, but also listening to them and considering what they say before making health and safety decisions.
One of the main causes of accidents in the workplace is reversing, so ideally, employers should remove the need to reverse wherever possible. If possible, they should implement one way systems, but if not, they should try to operate in a way that minimises reversing. Measures they should implement include:
- installation of barriers to stop vehicles entering pedestrian areas;
- planning and marking designated reversing areas clearly;
- increased visibility so that drivers can see pedestrians;
- use of portable radios or other similar communication systems;
- installation of equipment such as flashing beacons, reversing alarms and proximity-sensing devices to help the drivers to see pedestrians or warn them.
Loading and unloading vehicles carries a wide variety of risks, so employees should have information on the load and how to load it, secure it and unload it properly. This information should accompany the load and anyone who is involved in loading, transporting or unloading the items should have access to it.
When a driver parks a vehicle for loading, they should be able to wait in a safe place while the other employees conduct the loading or unloading.
The loading and unloading area itself should be:
- clear of traffic and anyone who’s not involved in the operation;
- on level ground;
- segregated from other areas of business operation;
- free of overhead pipes, cables and any other potential obstructions;
- protected from bad weather wherever possible.
Employers should also take steps to stop drivers from pulling away during either loading or unloading, another hazard that can cause horrendous accidents. These measures should include:
- vehicle and trailer restraints;
- traffic lights on loading bays;
- safe places for keys.
By law, employers must make sure vehicles are suitable for their purpose, which means they should be appropriate for any loads they’re carrying. They should make sure the vehicles have adequate anchor points so the vehicles can carry loads securely.
Employers should also ensure that all lifting equipment connectors or parts of a load that will be load-bearing are strong and stable enough to handle the stresses the lift itself will cause.
Maintenance is crucial as well. Employers should plan regular maintenance to guarantee their vehicles are mechanically sound and that devices such as flashing beacons are working properly. A competent person must perform thorough examinations of any lift trucks or trucks that have tail lifts and keep reports.
As part of planned preventative maintenance, drivers should perform daily safety checks and regular maintenance inspections based on mileage or time. They should receive a list of the daily safety checks to perform. This must be monitored.
the role of employees in unloading and loading vehicles safely
Of course, when it comes to safety, employees have their role to play, too.
Drivers should make sure that when they position their vehicle or trailer for the loading or unloading operation, they’ve applied the brakes and the stabilisers are in the correct position. Note that on most trailers, disconnecting the emergency line doesn’t apply the parking brake.
Drivers should also make sure they don’t leave the vehicle unattended without making sure the vehicle and the trailer are securely braked, the engine is off and they’ve removed the keys from the vehicle.
Of course, any employee, driver or otherwise, involved in loading and unloading a vehicle has a part to play in making it safe. When loading or unloading a vehicle, staff have a list of special checks they should make to ensure they’ll be performing their duties safely:
- Are they performing the task in an area situated away from traffic, pedestrians and anyone not involved in loading or unloading the vehicle?
- Is the ground firm, flat and free of potholes? There should be no overhead cables or pipework, so that there’s no chance of fouling them or of electricity jumping through to earth through machinery, loads or people. The ground should be level, without any potholes or debris on it, to maintain the stability of the vehicle.
- Are parking brakes always being used on trailers and tractive units to stop unwanted movement? The vehicles should have effective parking brakes, and drivers shouldn’t be using the emergency brake as a parking brake when uncoupling the trailer and tractive units. They should never be using the emergency brake to secure a semi-trailer.
- Are the vehicles being braked and stabilised appropriately to avoid unsafe movements? Vehicles mustn’t be allowed to move while people are loading or unloading them, or are working around them. The vehicle should be as stationary and as level as possible. If the business has systems in place to stop vehicles moving, they should use them. Ideally, employees should know about the ways in which different types of vehicles move before they work in an area where vehicles operate.
- Are systems in place to stop lorries driving away while employees are still loading them or unloading? Employees must never overload trucks. Doing so can make them difficult to steer and to brake, not to mention unstable. Simple control measures such as the use of directional signage, stop boards in front of delivery vehicles and, importantly, the transfer of keys to yard marshals should be in place to stop drivers from pulling away while loading or unloading is underway.
- Can the drivers stand in a safe place away from the loading area? For their own safety, drivers should have site information about the site to which they’re transferring goods or collecting them. They should check they have this information before they leave.
- Can drivers observe any loading or unloading from a safe area? Some sites won’t allow drivers to stay in their cabs while the logistics team perform the job, and in other cases, it’s unrealistic to expect them to stay in their cab while the work is going on. They should have a safe area from which they can observe what’s going on. If the driver is involved in the unloading or loading, they must be in a safe area and away from any vehicle movement. Employees should follow specific systems so that the driver doesn’t move the vehicle unless everyone knows that everyone else is in a safe place when they do it.
- Has the need for people to go into the loading area been removed if possible and if there’s no safe access or use?
- Are they using appropriate lifting equipment?
- Are they loading or unloading the vehicle as evenly as possible to keep the trailer stable? Balancing the load is important to help the trailer move predictably and safely. Unbalanced loads can make the vehicle or trailer unstable or overload individual axles. Ideally, loads should rest as close as possible to the bulkhead.
- Are they checking that they’ve secured the load in line with theDepartment of Transport Code of Practice? Have they checked that they’ve not loaded the vehicle beyond its capacity before they set off on their journey?
Admittedly, there are a lot of checks to make, but it’s important to make them. A very serious accident could happen if not.
why is load securing important?
Securing loads is absolutely vital, both to stop accidents from happening and so that goods can reach their intended destination intact. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is responsible for monitoring the roadworthiness of trucks, coaches and buses, and of the loads, they’re carrying; and for traffic enforcement, including drivers’ hours and overloading.
In a year, the agency can issue thousands of prohibitions to drivers because of the way they or their business has loaded the vehicle and of the road safety risk the load has created. Meanwhile, the Highways Agency will report thousands of incidents in which objects falling off vehicles has affected the roads. These incidents cause the closure of a single lane or of the entire carriageway. They can take 20 minutes each or more to resolve.
These closures aren’t good news, of course. They harm the economy by damaging the infrastructure and the goods themselves, as well as by causing professionals and others to waste time in traffic.
Securing a load
- The load should go as close to the bulkhead of the trailer as possible. If there are any gaps between the load and the bulkhead, you can place blocking elements in the trailer to help secure the load.
- Direct lashings are used for machinery and, to prevent the load from moving, in opposing pairs, whereas frictional lashings secure many different types of loads, are placed over the load itself and should be as vertical as possible. The type of lashing you choose will depend on the weight of the load, the friction between the load and the load bed, the number of tensioners you’re using, the lashing rating and the angle of the lashing to the load bed.
- Avoid working at height whenever possible.
- It may be more suitable to transport crushable loads in a stillage or box or secure them with rated tarpaulin, rather than secure them with lashes.
- Webbing straps can slacken quickly once the vehicle is in motion, which means that other methods of securing loads that consist of powdered goods may be preferable.
- A stacked load should be stable without lashing.
- You must be able to show that you’ve secured the load properly. A load plan (or load docket) provides everyone information about the load and how you’ve secured it.
Ensuring the vehicle is fit for its purpose
When buying a vehicle, consider the type(s) of load you’re transporting. Specialist companies can advise you correctly on the right load securing systems you need for your vehicle.
Loading the vehicle properly
You should stack the load as close to the headboard as possible and with the centre of gravity as low as possible. Make sure the load is stable without lashings when stacked. Note that if there’s any damage to the headboard, you should fix this as soon as possible because the headboard is a major part of the load securing system.
If a load isn’t stable by itself, think about how you can support it. This means putting in either a box, a stillage or a transport frame. If the load isn’t against the headboard or if other items could slide over, find a way to stop it from sliding forward. Extra lashings, chocks, blocking or sails are all potential solutions.
choose the right securing system
Not all loads are the same, which means webbing straps or chains aren’t suitable for all loads. Choose a system that allows you to secure the load without creating other unnecessary risks such as manual handling and/or working at height.
Whichever system you choose, the system must secure the load to the vehicle chassis and stop the load from moving around.
Using enough load restraint
Dynamic forces are a lot higher than static forces. When a load is moving (dynamic), it will take more force to secure it than when it’s stationary (static). Drivers and operators can underestimate the level of force it will take to secure a load, and this is when incidents happen.
Good communication is essential. Often, there are some near misses or minor accidents before a major accident finally happens. It’s important to report these incidents so that operators can act appropriately to avoid more serious ones in the future.
Drivers should have information about the loads they’re carrying, how to unload and what to do if their load shifts. If the driver hasn’t loaded or unloaded their trailer, this information is especially important. Ideally, a loading plan should be created and provided so that everyone involved in the operation is aware of all the details around the load.
About your loading restraint system
Even when a vehicle is moving at low speeds, the forces acting on the load can be powerful enough to move it. As for heavy loads, these can move and do, so never rely on the weight of the load alone to hold it in place. Once the vehicle is moving, the forces that prevent the load from moving will be higher than if the load was stationary.
The combined strength of a load restraint system must be enough to withstand a forwards force not less than the total weight of the load to stop it from moving under severe braking, and half the weight of the load moving sideways and backwards.
The consequences of securing a load incorrectly
Not securing a load properly can have grave consequences, the most obvious of these being death or serious injury. These consequences could happen to the driver, other road users or anyone involved in unloading the vehicle.
Common incidents as a result of unsecured loads include:
- items falling out of the vehicle during unloading, forcing someone to jump out of the way and fall;
- items falling out and hitting someone stood next to the vehicle when the curtain lifts;
- people slipping on the load bed because items have fallen over during the journey and the recipients have had to then unload them by hand;
- damage to goods, property or the infrastructure (the consumer then picks these up);
- damage to roads, leading to greater wear and tear on vehicles and increasing overheads for the operator.
A damaged reputation
An unsecured load can harm a company’s corporate reputation. This can arise through bad press around the incident and also via loss of contracts because of damaged goods etc.
The death of an employee or member of the public, or an injury to them, due to negligence on their part could lead to you facing a prosecution. The possible view of negligence is that of ignorance or lack of efficient processes. A company, individual or sole trader can receive major fines for this.
It’s possible to see one example of this on the HSE website. According to a press release from December 2021 on the site, a cardboard manufacturer had to pay £117,585, plus £5,404 in costs, after a forklift truck (FLT) hit a visiting lorry driver and inflicted life-changing injuries. During the loading of the second pallet, the FLT reversed and hit the driver, causing crush injuries to his leg. An investigation by the HSE found the company hadn’t organised the delivery yard in a manner that was safe for vehicles and pedestrians to work safely. There had been a lack of segregation.
Prohibitions and penalties
In some circumstances, a driver may receive a prohibition, which means they won’t be able to move the vehicle until they secured the load. A fixed penalty notice will follow. They’ll have 60 minutes to solve the problem, but if they can’t, implementation of the DVSA immobilisation policy will follow and the driver will have to pay a release fee.
In other circumstances, penalty points may be issued. Often, this happens when the situation is dangerous. For instance, the vehicle is in a dangerous condition because of the weight, suitable purpose, packaging, distribution or adjustment of the load. The driver will receive penalty points, a licence endorsement and possibly an unlimited fine.
Really serious loading breaches can trigger an interview with the DVSA about the roadside incident. Legal proceedings may follow. A report may go out to the Traffic Commissioner, who could take regulatory action against the operator for failure to comply with the undertaking of an operator’s licence. Suspension, curtailment or revocation of the licence are all possible outcomes. The Traffic Commission may also take action concerning the driver’s licence, which could affect both the driver and the operator.
common injuries when loading and unloading vehicles
Naturally, loading and unloading vehicles are very physical, which creates a major potential risk for people to injure themselves or for accidents to occur. Here are some of the most common injuries people suffer when loading or unloading a vehicle:
- cuts and bruises;
- crush injuries from collisions with forklift trucks, falls from loading docks or falling items;
- sprains or strains from lifting cargo incorrectly or handling it the wrong way;
- spinal injuries from incorrect loading, unloading, crush injuries of falls;
- head injuries from falling cargo.
These are all common injuries, some of which occur as the result of horrific accidents, and both employers and employees need to be aware of the different safety hazards they face when a vehicle arrives for loading and unloading. Implementing and following suitable procedures can prevent minor injuries, life-changing ones and fatal ones, and also minimise the chances of operators facing fines or other damaging consequences for their business.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
the top 3 loading dock safety tips
Did you know that 25% of factory and warehouse accidents happen in or around the loading bay? It’s a worrying statistic that demonstrates a huge under-appreciation of the risks involved in the movement of goods ready for transport or storage. It’s clear it’s having a significant impact on the industry as a whole despite a focus on the prevention of injuries.
According to Great Britain’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE), being struck by a moving vehicle is the main cause of transport-related incidents with around 37% being attributed to this in 2020/21. The economic cost of workplace injury in the transportation and storage sector is estimated at over £800m; this accounts for 5% of the total cost across all industries. There is also the cost of remedying any damage caused to vehicles, equipment, and premises from incidents and accidents, which can quickly add up.
We’ve put together 3 top-loading dock safety tips to help your business provide a safe working environment for all staff and stakeholders. Learn more about the top 3 loading dock safety tips here.
guide to improving warehouse safety
When operating a warehouse, health and safety must come before efficiency. Always. The busy nature of warehouses, and the fact people are working with machinery, or they or vehicles are constantly moving around the warehouse, creates a wide range of health and safety hazards.
Operators must strive to make conditions in these workplaces as safe as possible. Failing to do so could see workers become involved in serious accidents… fatal ones even, and the operator themselves could then face some serious consequences.
We've put together a guide to improving health and safety in the warehouse... Read our Guide to Improving Warehouse Safety, here.
load your truck or trailer safely with our manual or automatic loading solutions
We want you to help make light work of heavy loads, and we want you to do so safely, which is why we’ve produced ideal manual and automatic loading solutions for your business. The reduction of the need for forklift trucks to enter trailers during loading and unloading processes allows workers to transfer loads safely into trucks and trailers, and from them to the staging areas for storage. These systems are as efficient as they are safe.
manual loading solutions
If you’re looking for a simple but cost-efficient way to load and unload your vehicles, and are happy for operatives to do a little of the hands-on work, you could try one of our manual loading solutions. As well as container loading and lifting systems, designed for the heaviest loads, we offer two main solutions: the skate and track, and the roller track in its different variations.
Skate & track
The is specially designed for trucks and light vehicles. It’s perfect for shifting pallets, machinery, drums and other heavy goods, and has front and rear brakes on it to make the system fail-safe. The skate and track make use of a sunken track into which the manufacturers have built roller skates, so there’s no need for a forklift truck to enter the vehicle. All logistics workers have to do is pull the handle to lift the load, and then they can push or pull the load to wherever they wish it to go.
Our rollertrack loading systems, which we call 'rollerbeds, or 'rollertrack', reduce the damage caused by forklift trucks and also involve fewer workers in loading and unloading vehicles. The pneumatic rise-and-fall floor enable them to transfer a variety of pallets and containers.
Built-in rollerbed systems, which it’s possible to integrate into the existing floor of vans, trucks and trailers, and which we can tailor to your requirements. These are extremely safe during loading and while the goods are in transit, are easy to maintain and only require one or two people to take care of the loading;
automatic loading solutions
Alternatively, you can lighten your loading and unloading operations, and increase safety by reducing the possibility of accidents in your loading areas with one of our automatic loading solutions. You’ll be able to shift the same number of pallets but with fewer people, trucks and forklift trucks. We provide three main options:
The moving floor solution is ideal for loading pallets of any size. It’s safe, straightforward and efficient, and you won’t have to drive a forklift truck into the trailer to transfer the load, so there’s less traffic in the loading area. Just set up the floor in your vehicle and place your load onto the coils. These coils then transport the load into your truck or, if it’s already inside the truck, out of it for easy unloading.
The slipchain solution provides full safety for high volumes of loading and unloading. To get things moving, all you have to do is push a button. The tracks on the platform of this modular design rise up and transfer the load from the slipchain dock and into your trailer, or from the truck, as you wish. This durable system requires very little work to existing structures or to your trailer, and u can connect it easily to production line conveyors or integrate it into your building.
The trailerskate is suitable for most businesses, but serves operators in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), packing, food and drinks industries especially well, allowing them to bolster productivity and efficiency and still operate more safely.
The skates on the system make loading and unloading simple. They sit on a loading dock that connects to the trailer floor. The system collects the pallets or other load and transfers it to the skates to move it from the trailer or into it. If you have a high-volume logistics business and a large fleet, the trailerskate is ideal and keeps loading and unloading extremely safe.
All of our systems make loading and unloading much easier and much safer. If you’d like to know more about our systems, we’ll be happy to advise you and help you choose the solution that best suits your needs.
request your FREE loading assessment today!
We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your logistics operations, assessing how goods/pallets are loaded and unloaded. Our design experts will work out how best to safely, efficiently and transport loads from the end of production lines into trailers. Next, we'll design you a comprehensive loading solution that can streamline your logistics processes and send this you to via email.
We'll do all this to ensure we fully understand your product loading and unloading requirements and help lighten your load!
This is an amazing service we do for thousands of businesses throughout the world every year and why we're known as the global leaders in loading and unloading solutions. We work with such a wide variety of industries, including automotive, beverage, air cargo, contract logistics, FMCG, packaging paper and print, petrochemical, and many more...
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To find out more about the latest manual and automated trailer loading installation projects we've been working on, check out our Case Studies section.
why choose us?
We help businesses lighten loads and are highly regarded as the world's leading loading and unloading solutions provider in the logistics industry. Over the last 60 years, we've helped thousands of businesses streamline their logistics operations to be more cost-efficient, more sustainable, and more health and safety-conscious.
As experts in all kinds of unloading and unloading solutions, we can help innovate, automate and streamline your end-of-production line problems, wherever you are. We work with a network of over 30global distributorsto provide you with comprehensive design, installation, maintenance, and certification services across a range of industry sectors. Learn moreAbout Ustoday.
Get in touch with our experts today to learn how we can provide a safe working environment, call our friendly team on +44 (0) 151 427 8954, on ourLet’s Chatpage, via email email@example.com on ourLinkedIn page.
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- Establish and know where the danger zone is. ...
- Never turn your back on the loading or unloading process while in the danger zone. ...
- All loads must be secured to the truck, container, or trailer to prevent shifting of material and equipment during transport. ...
- Each load is different.
Loading and unloading operations are common in industries such as logistics and transport. To prevent injuries among workers carrying out these operations, proper securing and safe loading and unloading practices are crucial.What are the proper steps to unloading a truck? ›
Lay down non-skid runners. Remove doors where necessary. Take Wardrobe boxes off first and put family members to work in their own rooms putting their clothes away! Transport furniture to applicable room and remove plastic wrapping.What are the four basic rules you should observe when handling a load? ›
Keep the load close to the waist.
Keep the load close to the body for as long as possible while lifting. Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body. If a close approach to the load is not possible, try to slide it towards the body before attempting to lift it.
- Common Loading/Unloading Hazards.
- Implement a Centralized Warehouse Management System. ...
- Link Restraints to the Master Control Panel.
- Mount Communication Lights.
- Install Barrier Gates.
- Use Dock Levelers.
- Create a Regular Maintenance Routine.
- Train Employees.