Dock Levellers – The defects and legislation

The Top 5 Defects of Dock Levellers and the legislation you need to know about.

There are 3 main pieces of legislation that need to be complied with when operating dock levelling systems, these are:

  1. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  2. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  3. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

Dock levellers – The 4 most common types are Hydraulic, Mechanical, Air Powered and Vertical. These are used to bridge the difference in height and distance between the warehouse floor and a vehicle. Significant dangers exist with this type of equipment including: Crushing, Shearing, High-pressure fluid ejection, Loss of stability, Slips, trips and falls. During operation cargo is constantly being transferred to and from arriving vehicles. If the dock leveller was to fail in operation, then the load that it was supporting would fall down to the rear of the vehicle causing potentially fatal injuries to the person operating a fork-lift truck or pallet truck. Regular examination is key to the prevention of such catastrophic incidents.

The 5 most common defects and their potential effect are described below.

  1. Toe guard failure. In normal operation most dock levellers deploy a protective screen which prevents any one inadvertently placing their foot directly below a raised dock leveller. When the dock leveller is placed on to the loading area of a lorry, first it is raised, then the lip is deployed and finally the dock leveller is lowered. If the toe guard is not deployed or positioned correctly, there is a significant risk to the dock leveller operator who in many cases be stood next to the dock leveller as it is raised and lowered. The guillotine action of the dock leveller could cause significant injury to the operator or anyone who is stood near to the bed of the dock leveller as it descends.As part of the thorough examination,  the condition of the toe guards are assessed and any areas that need attention are brought to the notice of the owner / user in sufficient time to prevent an accident.
  2. Build-up of rubbish beneath the dock leveller. It is very common to see a build-up of rubbish beneath a dock leveller. This by its very nature is a fire hazard, and, in some cases can restrict the operation of the dock leveller. The removal of the rubbish must be carried out with the utmost safety using an approved safe system of work.Thurra’s engineers will bring to the attention of the owner / user the status of the area beneath the dock leveller and thereby potentially reduce the risk of a very dangerous situation occurring.
  3. Failure of the dock leveller lip. The failure of the lip due to a defective or distorted operating ram or hinge could cause the dock leveller to fail in operation. Such a failure could cause the moving load to fall at the rear of the lorry being loaded or unloaded. Such a failure may cause injury to the pallet truck / forklift truck operator as well as damage to the lorry and loading bay. Regular maintenance supported by a structured examination plan, can help to prevent such incidents.During the examination, the condition of the dock leveller lip, it’s hinge(s) and operating ram(s) will be assessed and any areas of concern will be brought to the attention of the owner / operator by Thurra’s engineer.
  4. Loading Bay bumper damage. Many loading bays are fitted with heavy duty bumpers which are intended to prevent lorries reversing on to the concrete structure of the loading bay and on the structure of the dock leveller. Arguably these are not part of the dock leveller, their intention is to prevent damage to the lorry the loading bay and the dock leveller. Any such damage could mean that the dock leveller would be out of operation for a period of time.Any collision from the lorry to the structure of the loading bay, including the dock leveller would be very expensive to rectify. As part of the examination, any deterioration in the bumper’s condition will be highlighted by Thurra’s engineer.
  5. Hydraulic ram and hose damage. As stated earlier it is very common to see a build-up of rubbish under the dock leveller as well as the incorrect positioning of hydraulic hoses. There is the possibility that the hydraulic hoses could become caught in the operating mechanism of the hydraulic ram. If the hydraulic ram was to become damaged resulting in an uncontrolled hydraulic leak, the dock leveller would descend and become inoperable. This would have the knock-on effect of delaying the entire logistics operation, not to mention the cost of any repair bill.Thurra’s engineers carry out an extensive examination of the underside of the dock leveller, including the condition and positioning of the hydraulic hoses. Any potential hazards are brought to the attention of the owner / user prior to leaving site.

If you require advice or help on any of the above, please speak to us or your Insurance Broker who will be happy to arrange a call from Thurra for technical advice, or a visit by an experienced engineer.

Further information on PUWER inspections can be found here.

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