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FACE Report: Freight clerk crushed by trailer at store loading dock


Photo: NIOSH

Case number: 71-235-2023
Issued by: Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of report: March 20, 2023

On the day of the incident, a semitruck with a trailer backed up to a supermarket chain’s loading dock. A freight clerk opened the back of the trailer, checked the freight and determined that the truck was at the wrong dock. A second clerk arrived to assist. The first clerk went outside to talk with the driver. The second clerk closed the trailer. A few seconds later, he reopened it, looked in, walked to the left side, and leaned his head and shoulders through a gap between the exterior loading dock wall and the rear of the trailer. He came back in, closed the trailer a second time and again leaned out the gap – at the same time the truck was preparing to pull forward. When the trailer’s parking brake was released, it lurched back and crushed the clerk against the wall. After the truck pulled away, the first clerk returned to the dock, saw his co-worker on the pavement below and called 911. The victim died at the scene. Investigators found that the employer did not have loading dock safety policies, procedures and training; workers routinely leaned out between dock walls and trailers to communicate with drivers; and the trailer was parked away from dock bumpers and on a slight downgrade toward the loading bay.

To help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Construct or modify loading docks to have anti-crush safety zones by installing dock seals, barriers and/or dock levelers.
  • Use traffic signal-style vehicle movement indicator lights to inform dock staff when it is safe to open bay doors and inform drivers when a truck is ready to depart.
  • Require truck drivers to check in, leave keys and wait in a designated safe place inside the shipping/receiving area so workers can talk with them away from hazards.
  • Install signage at loading docks to warn workers about area hazards, such as pinch points.

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