The warehouse and logistics industry operates under strict health and safety regulations. Even still, every year, thousands of employees are involved in an accident in the workplace or experience work-related injuries and ill health.

We've put together a safety guide to help operation managers and those responsible for the loading operations understand the top four risks associated with the loading processes and have put together a checklist to educate and help reduce the risks further. 

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key transportation and storage statistics in Great Britain, 2023

  • 55,0001 workers suffer from work-related health issues
    • 36% have musculoskeletal disorders
    • 30% experience stress, depression or anxiety
  • 29,000 workers injured
  • 15 workers fatally injured
  • £1 billion total cost of workplace injury and ill health
  • 2 million working days lost each year:
    • 21% due to workplace injury
    • 79% due to work-related illness

1 HSE Transportation and Storage Statistics in Great Britain 2023

The Top 3 Loading Dock Safety Tips 01

The human cost can be devastating. And even if your business isn’t found at fault, workplace-related injuries and accidents are incredibly damaging. There are high costs associated with:

  • Legal expenses
  • Compensation payouts
  • Replacing or repairing damaged equipment and property
  • Sick leave payments
  • Employee cover
  • Investigative actions and corrective measures

And it’s not only the direct financial repercussions to consider. Reputation, team morale, and productivity can all be severely impacted. At a time of endemic staff shortages, no company can afford to lose experienced employees due to illness, injury or low morale.2

2 Warehouses Expect a Return to Normalcy After Challenging Year

Your business is undoubtedly committed to safety, so what else can you do to protect employees?

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get a free copy of our safety guide

You can find our complete guide on the four top ways to improve safety in the loading bay with automation today below. 


identifying areas of risk

With so many factors influencing the warehouse environment right now which are out of their control, it’s just too dangerous for businesses to assume that regulatory compliance is enough to protect their employees and their profitability. Oftentimes, the passing of a new regulation is reactive and in response to an accident after it has happened. Meeting those regulations is a legal requirement and needs to be considered the starting point, not the end goal.

Businesses must constantly be on the lookout for new risks, and for new ways to improve and implement better working practices. With a high percentage of accidents happening in or around the loading bay, this is one of the most dangerous areas for businesses to address first.

It is easy to see why loading areas present so many significant risks which require careful management. Differing specifications for docks and vehicles, visiting drivers and the lack of direct communication between drivers and warehouse staff all contribute to potential problems. Add in the challenges created by manual handling, often of heavy and dangerous items, the operation of forklift trucks, the reversing of vehicles and the need to segregate vehicles from pedestrians and the loading dock should be a priority area for any logistics business.

In the following guide, we look at the factors that could be undermining your safety standards in the loading area right now and outline four ways that automation can be transformational.

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the four roles of loading automation in warehouse safety

When it comes to operating a warehouse, health and safety take top priority, no matter how fast you wish to operate. Warehousing automation can make your loading operations not just speedier, but also safer.

In fact, warehouse automation has several major parts to play in increasing the safety of your warehouse. It makes loading safe without sacrificing speed, eases workloads on logistics teams, reduces ergonomic risks, decreases the interaction between workers and forklift trucks, and, in the process of doing all this, boosts productivity

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step 1: avoid manual handling

Balancing escalating operational demands with safeguarding staff is tough, especially in highly manual environments: in the transportation and storage sector, 36% of work-related health issues are a result of musculoskeletal disorders (approximately 20,000 cases). Areas such as loading and unloading bays are hard places to work, with employees under pressure to meet the increasingly tight deadlines required by high velocity fulfilment.  

Automated loading systems radically reduce the amount of physical work required by employees. Rather than 45 minutes of highly physical activity for each trailer load, with automation the job can be completed in less than two minutes. Heavy and dangerous items can be loaded and unloaded without manual intervention, further improving employee safety and with fewer staff required for each load, a business can allocate its most experienced employees to the area.

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Automating to Eradicate Manual Intervention

  • Automation removes the need for forklift trucks, immediately reducing the risk to employees.
  • Connecting automated loading and unloading systems with other automated end-of-line solutions, such as conveyors or Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), further reduces the need for manual intervention.
  • Automation reduces the risk of damage to goods or assets, such as forklift trucks, trailers, or the warehouse floor, which require manual repairs and downtime.
  • Fewer workers and vehicles in the loading area unlocks opportunities to better optimise the space, reduce costs, and increase productivity without compromising safety.
  • Highly efficient shuttle runs minimise driving miles, reducing the risks of collisions while resulting in more sustainable operations.

Replacing time-consuming and labour-intensive manual loading and unloading with an automated solution is not only far more efficient but provides a safer working environment. 3

The Consequences Of An Unsafe Load

step 2. minimise opportunities for human error

People make mistakes – and stressed workers under high pressure deadlines are at even more risk of slipping up. Within the loading area, however, mistakes can be devastating. Just consider the implications when heavy loads are incorrectly handled or dangerous items mismanaged, when pallets are not correctly secured in a trailer, when vehicle chocks are placed incorrectly, or a vehicle or trailer is moved away from the loading bay too early.

From breakages to spillages, slipped loads to vehicle creep, mistakes due to inexperience, lack of concentration or over-tiredness can create an array of potentially lethal hazards. The whole situation can be transformed by giving your staff fail safe systems that ensure the right procedures are followed at all times. This is especially important in high volume applications, where the reliance on extremely repetitive tasks increases the likelihood of incidents and accidents.

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  • Safety fences can be installed around the system to ensure that no one gets too close to the mechanisms in the loading dock whilst it’s in operation. An access door connected to the control panel is automatically locked while the system is in operation.
  • Ladders and handrails can be used on higher docks to safeguard anyone performing maintenance and prevent workers falling off the loading dock.
  • Sensors can also be connected to the loading system’s computer that monitor either side of the load or the height of the load and detect any issues before they’re loaded into the trailer.
  • A contour pallet check of abnormal loads or a contour complete load check of the ‘slug’ ensures there are no issues before pallets are loaded in one shot into the trailer.
  • A red-light signal will prompt the operator if any irregularities are identified that need to be corrected or rejected.

During the loading or unloading process, the driver must be pressing a button for the system to work. The system will stop if the driver stops pressing the button, which means they must be present during the entire process.

Avoid Trailer Tip

Traditional loading and unloading methods may see tractors uncoupled from trailers to make use of the equipment and labour elsewhere on the site. However, this can cause trailers to tip forward when heavy loads are mishandled or forklift trucks are used incorrectly, leading to workers being hit by machinery or the load falling from the vehicle.

As the loading and unloading process is so much quicker when automated, the need to uncouple the tractor unit from the trailer is eliminated. The trailer remains in a fixed position at all times, secure in fail-safe mechanisms. Tyre guides position the trailer exactly where it needs to be longitudinally, while the dock-lock/ dock leveller ensures it is in the correct position vertically and locked into place.

End Drive-Aways

Drivers are under enormous time pressures, especially when they have been hanging around waiting to unload. It is far from unknown for a driver to attempt to drive away before the unloading/ loading process has been completed – leading to a worker falling from the vehicle or dock. This can’t happen with an automated system. If a driver mistakenly attempts to drive away without disconnecting the data cables from the trailer, the fifth wheel’s lock won’t open to release the trailer, preventing cables and other components in the system from being damaged.

The Benefits Of Installing A Loading Dock Planning Your Loading Dock

safety risks within the loading bay are both physical and mental:

  • Fast-moving forklift trucks operate alongside a pedestrian workforce.
  • Staff must manually handle heavy, awkward and potentially hazardous loads.
  • Constant noise associated with delivery lorries, forklift trucks and moving goods can create mental stress and risk miscommunication.
  • Space is often at a premium, forcing workers to operate in close confines, which adds to the risk of accidents.
  • Deadline pressures can lead to mistakes, such as vehicle drive-aways before the area is cleared.

Fail-safe system

Providing employees with fail-safe systems is key to avoiding the human error that can have catastrophic outcomes in the loading bay. With no need to uncouple the tractor and trailer, the simple step of locking and docking – by connecting a data cable from the loading dock to the connection point on the trailer – eradicates the risks of trailer tip and drive-aways.

  • The system ensures both the loading dock and the trailer work at the same time and the same speed.
  • Using readings from sensor points throughout the dock, the system safely guides the pallets and ensures perfect alignment between loading bay and trailer every time.
  • Adding a fifth wheel or dock leveller at the rear of the trailer locks the trailer into position. The loading system cannot be operated unless the trailer is docked correctly.
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how automated loading solutions can reduce human risk

Automation plays a big part in the automotive industry and has done so for a long time. Car manufacturers were already using equipment such as sensors and industrial robots to boost their productivity and efficiency long before many other industries began exploring automation as a solution.

In this blog, we've detailed how automated loading solutions can reduce human risk in the automotive industry, however, the blog applies to every industry.

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benefits of automated loading solutions

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100% end-of-line automation

Less labour required

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Reduction of All Operating Costs

Including, People, Trailers, and Forklifts (FLTs)

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Health and Safety

Reduced accident rate during high-volume loading and unloading.

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Reduction in CO2

No forklifts required and reduction in trailer fleet.

step 3. avoid collisions between vehicles and people

Pedestrians operating side by side with forklift trucks is a dangerous mix. Plus, of course, there are always trucks and trailers regularly arriving and departing outside. The average annual number of workplace injury fatalities in the UK is 124 4. Between 2018 and 2022, 37% of deaths in the transportation and storage environment were classified as struck by moving vehicles 5.

Businesses can immediately cut the risk of collisions between forklifts and employees by adopting automated loading and unloading procedures, as they eliminate the requirement for forklifts. They also include an array of features to protect workers from inadvertently straying into a danger zone such as the loading bay during operation. The addition of emergency stops, light guards and scanners, for example, not only ensures everyone knows when loading is underway but these safety features automatically shut off the system should members of staff come into proximity whilst in operation.

4 Costs to Britain of Workplace Fatalities and Self-Reported Injuries and Ill Health 2021/22

5 Transportation and Storage Statistics in Great Britain 2023

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automated loading solutions

Automated loading systems are built to speed up a standard process that happens in every production and warehousing location. Typically, the forklift process of loading a full trailer will be around 30-45 minutes. Joloda Hydraroll’s automated loading systems can do it in under 5 minutes.

A complete loading and unloading process entails one or more auto-loading docks and unloading docks, and a dedicated system trailer. Once connected to an existing conveyor infrastructure, or integrated with AGVs, the complete loading procedure can be de-manned – also known as 100% end-of-line automation.

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step 4. improve staff morale and retention

Recruitment is tough everywhere, but the issue is now urgent within logistics. One recent survey found that 64% of businesses across materials handling, distribution or fulfilment had forgone business worth more than 25% of their revenue in 2022 because of staffing issues 6. That’s despite 49% of respondents saying their businesses offered flexible schedules to attract or retain staff, and more than one-third reporting their businesses raised pay.

  • An influx of new recruits who are unfamiliar with the processes and risks demands lots of training hours and places added pressure on the remaining workforce to increase their productivity.
  • Procedural errors are more likely which can result in accidents or create new risks.
  • As labour shortages intensify, staff may feel they have to cut corners or rush, increasing falls or incidences with vehicles.

Businesses can boost retention by improving not only the safety of the environment but also the overall working experience. Embracing new technologies, such as automated loading or other end-of-line automated technologies, such as pallet picking, pallet shuttles, wrapping or AGVs, can also attract a younger generation that is actively looking to use modern technologies within the workplace. Employees who are happy or engaged in their work are far less likely to make a mistake or experience mental health problems.

6 Warehouses Expect a Return to Normalcy After Challenging Year

Prioritising safety will help your business to create a working environment that is safer and allows people to have the most fulfilling jobs.

checklist for successful automation

  1. Undertake a Risk Assessment

A comprehensive risk analysis is essential to understand the specific threats within the organisation’s loading dock. Taking a walk around the space and considering what employees will be doing day-to-day can quickly highlight potential dangers. Do walkways guide workers and visitors around the space safely? Are floors kept clear? Are handrails in place? The HSE recommends a comprehensive list of questions, on their Site Safety, Loading Areas webpage.

Looking at any recent health and safety incidents will also highlight problems and get a better employee perspective.

  • What tasks are they struggling to complete safely?
  • Are the same injuries occurring frequently?

Having determined current safety issues, the next step is to introduce appropriate mechanical solutions for safety, warning signs, training, and electrical safety.

  1. Set Automation Priorities 

The risk assessment will highlight the key areas of business risk, allowing a business to set automation priorities. The next step is to gauge whether the business would benefit from an automated loading system. A standard viability questionnaire will help to ascertain whether a business would benefit from automation, the type of loading solution that would best suit their requirements, and how they should approach prioritising automation.

The questionnaire covers key issues, including:

Current unloading and loading processes:

  • Type of loads (for example, pallets) – material, weights and size.
  • Hours of operation, number of employees involved and the daily shift pattern.
  • Inbound and outbound pallet flow volumes, on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, and a forecast of how the business will scale (if this is a bottleneck).
  • Equipment currently used – such as forklifts and electric stackers.
  • Loading processes – for example, from the ground, the side or through rear doors.
  • Type and size of trailer(s).
  • Trailer routes and distances.

Business issues arising from the current manual process, including:

  • Accidents and/ or ‘near misses’.
  • Time taken to load/ unload.
  • Driver waiting times.
  • Limitation on growth due to manual processes.
  • Demand to reduce loading times.
  • Damage to goods or equipment.
  • Space limitations.

This information provides vital insight to support a business case for automation and fine-tune the right automated loading system.

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Logistics companies are enjoying a boom time, with the global market expecting growth to continue at an annual growth rate of around 17.1% from 2023 to 2030. At the same time, escalating demand has placed enormous pressure on warehouse space, while the drive for higher velocity fulfilment across sectors is creating the need for ever greater logistics efficiency.

Automating the unloading and loading process will significantly enhance safety and reliability throughout the entire operation. Goods move quickly through loading areas, with no need for forklift trucks. Processes are more efficient, ensuring deadlines are hit and reducing pressure on staff. Space can be better optimised throughout the facility and a far calmer, low-stress environment is possible, even in the event of staffing challenges or peak demands. With the entire process requiring far fewer people, it alleviates recruitment pressures and ensures a safer, more fulfilling, and enjoyable environment for the existing workforce.

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types of automated loading systems

Moving Floor Conveyor System

Slipchain Pallet Loading System


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we offer free loading assessments

Wondering if a loading solution is right for your warehouse, factory, or business?

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!

Request your FREE, no-obligation loading operations site assessment today!

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world leaders in loading solutions

We've partnered up with over 30 global distributors to offer a helping hand to have experts in local standards. This is precisely why around the world, we’re known as the number one for loading and unloading solutions. 

Learn more about our global distributor network here.

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