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Using forklifts to unload straight trucks and semi trailers

SafetyClicks™ Idea of the Week

One of the most dangerous operations involving forklifts is the loading and unloading of trucks and trailers. The reason is the change from the stable floor of the loading dock to the unstable deck of the truck or trailer. Not only may the vehicle being driven into be unstable, but the dockplate itself can be a hazard.

Have your employees perform the following before unloading:

Set the brakes

Make sure that the brakes are set on the vehicle to be unloaded. This could range from air brakes or spring-loaded brakes on semi-trailers to hand brakes on other vehicles.

Secure the vehicle

Secure the vehicle to the loading dock by using a mechanical dock locking system, if available. It may also be a good idea to use wheel chocks, even though OSHA no longer requires them. By securing the trailer, it is prevented from moving away from the loading dock when the forklift enters and leaves it.

Install the dockboard or plate

Install the dockboard or plate, and check it to make sure that it overlaps the truck or trailer floor and loading dock sufficiently to be secure, and that it is square with the loading area.

Check the condition of the trailer floor

The operator should inspect the floor of the truck or trailer to make sure that it is safe. Check for any weak, rotten or otherwise unsafe areas. If any are found, the forklift should not be driven onto it. Instead, a pallet jack may have to be used to load or unload these vehicles.

Make sure the nose of the trailer is supported

If the tractor has been removed from the trailer, the nose of the trailer must be supported by placing nose cones or jackstands to prevent the trailer from upending.

Check the lighting

Check the lighting in the trailer to see if there is adequate lighting for the job. If lighting is poor, turn on the trailer lights or use supplemental lighting.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA)