Safety at the Loading Dock—a ProGMA Blog

As the latest in a series of educational videos goes live, representatives of the Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA), a product group within trade association Material Handling Industry (MHI), discuss safety at the loading dock.







Much fanfare greeted the launch of ProGMA’s latest video on protective guarding for the loading dock environment, largely because industry is still on a learning curve about the importance of taking such safety measures and the myriad of solutions that are available. See the video here:

ProGMA is targeting its content at floor managers, health and safety managers, upper management, shift workers, and anyone else who can better understand the advantages of installing safety gates, mesh door netting, bumpers, bollards, guardrails, truck wheel guides, truck driver cages, and other equipment in their facilities.

As Ray Niemeyer, chairman of ProGMA and director of business development at SpaceGuard Products, puts it, “The loading dock is the most active area of any facility; if a company isn’t shipping and receiving product, it isn’t making money. It is here where personnel either on foot or riding powered equipment can find themselves in dangerous situations, unless proper protective guarding and safety equipment is installed. Buildings and product can also be damaged.”

Niemeyer adds that, to this end, the group is working to develop and post advisory content—videos, case studies, white papers, photos, etc.—to ProGMA’s website on a regular basis. Visit the site at

The latest video makes a compelling case for protective guarding; it starts with an alarming statistic that 42% of forklift accidents involve workers getting pinned by vehicles tipping over. It also states that a single forklift accident can lead to $100,000+ in related costs. However, as ProGMA members agree, it is taking time for the message to sink in.

Hue Schlegel, director of marketing at Wildeck Inc., notes, “Safety products, while necessary and a requirement, are not always the first or foremost concern to the overall operation. OSHA issues hefty fines for violations when a facility does not meet required regulations for a safe working environment. Companies must place safety as a top concern within their organization and they should be willing to invest accordingly.”

Frank Oorreel, co-owner and president at Boplan USA Inc., concurs and points out how far behind U.S. professionals are versus their European counterparts.

He says, “Pertaining to guardrails in general, still too many companies have not applied enough of it to keep employees safe. Guardrails are more often used to protect infrastructure and machines, as damage to them is considered very expensive, while the most important asset of any company is its people. The use of proper [physically delimited] walkways is the single largest application that requires more attention in U.S. industrial plants—bar none.”

Kenneth Parrott, senior project engineer at SlowStop Guarding Systems, agrees that industry is in an educational phase when it comes to many types of protective guarding and, thus, points to “limitless” room for growth in retail, manufacturing, and other sectors. He says many facilities have “inadequate” safeguarding measures, especially for pedestrians.

“In the future, self-driving trucks or forklifts may make barriers less of a requirement, but otherwise most industry professionals would be of the opinion that without proper guarding, equipment, buildings, and people remain in harm’s way,” Parrott adds.

Proactive approach

Encouragingly, incidents can be prevented. ProGMA members install equipment throughout a loading dock environment (and elsewhere), including bollards in front of roll-up door tracks to prevent them from getting damaged; guardrails in between loading docks to protect personnel; guardrails across loading docks to protect people or racks from forklifts backing out of the loading bays; and handrails at the entry of the warehouse to segregate people from traffic and guide them in a safe direction. The list of solutions goes on.

Boplan’s Oorreel says, “The key to our members’ products is the creation of an area or physical barrier where people can work without coming to harm. You wouldn’t send your child to walk on a road where there was no elevated sidewalk. A painted line on the road certainly wouldn’t do. The same thing applies to industrial environments; a physical barrier is necessary to ensure safety.”

Many ProGMA members manufacture guardrails (also called safety barriers), handrails and other safety products specifically to protect people and infrastructure against the accidental impacts of industrial vehicles on the work floor—both inside and outside. There are a number of different types of systems to choose from, such as those manufactured from polymer; steel barriers that flex using rubber in the base; and the traditional steel guardrail.

Some are made from a high performance polymer with active memory and Oorreel notes that users are becoming more familiar with this type of solution. He says, “Their strength lies in an ability to absorb impact. By using a flexible polymer as material, the guardrail absorbs the majority of the impact energy, sending only a small portion to the floor and anchors. The result is guardrail that is not damaged upon impact and stays firmly anchored.”

SlowStop’s Parrott responds, “Steel barriers that flex using rubber in the base are another solution, also preventing concrete spalling and anchor damage. The design gives greater strength than a welded steel plate. These products reduce the maximum impact forces felt by the driver, reduce chances of throwing loads, and limit damage to vehicles, as well as provide a pedestrian barrier.”

Wildeck’s Schlegel advises end users to consider the pound impact rating of protective guarding. He says, “Although it may look similar in appearance, not all barrier rail is made the same. The added value that a higher rated guardrail brings to a facility is an increased level of safety and peace of mind.”

He continues, “Clearly, a higher rated guardrail will withstand a more severe impact. For example, when a forklift truck traveling at 4mph strikes a 10,000 pound impact rated rail, it can deflect, or push back, up to 12-15 inches. When that same forklift strikes heavier, 13,000 pound impact rated rail, it typically deflects only 10 inches, or less. A few inches may not seem that great, but in facilities and distribution centers where space is often a premium, those few inches mean that equipment and fixtures will be protected and additional manufacturing or storage space can be obtained.”

Work with a ProGMA member

A number of ProGMA members manufacture driver cages to secure entrance doors, with a principle purpose to control non-employee access into the building. SpaceGuard’s Niemeyer says, “Driver cages are overlooked all the time until a company starts loosing product through theft or has an intruder cause harm to an employee by accessing the building through the loading dock door.”

He continues, “Unaccompanied truck drivers may come into the dock wearing open-toe shoes, shorts, and a tank top shirt, which may not meet facility dress requirements.

Bonny DesJardin, owner of Jesco Industries Inc., reiterated the importance of driver caging. “It prevents drivers from wandering around the shipping and loading dock area,” she says.

Cages may be designed using standard stock material or as a custom solution, depending on the requirements of an application. DesJardin points out that cages are also used for storage.

She adds, “Products may require a wire mesh cage for secured storage until processed into the facility. Shipping and receiving may require a wire mesh cage for quarantine for non-conforming goods, applicable to inbound [or] outbound products.”

A good starting point for end users, perhaps upon heeding the warnings outlined in the group’s latest video, is a consultation with a ProGMA member company, during which a through traffic analysis takes place.

Boplan’s Oorreel shares three considerations at this phase of the process: one, where forklift trucks drive; two, where people walk; and, three, by consequence where do intersections between traffic and people occur. He explains that if a desk is installed between two loading docks, and forklift trucks operate near that desk, a barrier should be installed around it to take away the risk of an accident.

He continues, “When then selecting the appropriate product, the traffic flow analysis also provides us with the type of traffic at each location. Type includes the possible speed of the vehicles at impact, their weight, probable impact angles, and height requirements. All this information then allows us to select the right product for a customer’s application. Usually, the areas that require protection are pretty straightforward; less so, is the room we have to work with. Sometimes safety materials are needed where there is no room to put them. Therefore, it is much easier to build in space requirements as well as traffic flow patterns into new construction as to not create these limitations later on.”

Of course, it remains important for end users to consider protective guarding equipment whether their facility is new or many years old. As Wildeck’s Schlegel says, “Safety should be top of mind when building a new facility, updating or changing operations, or when the existing safety solution needs to be replaced.”

Other ProGMA members agree barriers are never really unnecessary. As warehouses continue to be more and more automated, accidents should occur less and less—SlowStop’s Parrott already alluded to this—but industry is only on the shallow slope of that curve. Technology is impacting the protective guarding industry as so-called smart barriers now report impact and breakage. Lights, motion sensors, and other safety devices have a role to play too, but few provide the same degree of clarity and safety as more traditional protective guarding equipment.

ProGMA’s latest video, titled ‘Prevent Accidents and Injuries Near Loading Docks / Doors’ can be seen here:

About ProGMA

The Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA) members are the industry’s leading suppliers of fixed protective guarding products designed to protect personnel, equipment, and inventory in industrial facilities. Member companies meet regularly to review, discuss, and revise the standards for design and performance of protective guarding products used in the material handling industry. ProGMA member companies are committed to the development, maintenance, and publishing of industry standard specifications for these systems. Visit the website at

About MHI

MHI is an international trade association that has represented the material handling, logistics and supply chain industry since 1945. MHI members include material handling and logistics equipment and systems manufacturers, integrators, consultants, publishers and third-party logistics providers. MHI offers education, networking and solution sourcing for their members, their customers and the industry as a whole through programming and events. The association sponsors the ProMat and MODEX expos to showcase the products and services of its member companies and to educate manufacturing and supply chain professionals.

Contact for editorial enquiries

Anupam Berry Bose, [email protected] 704-676-1190

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