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OSHA Loading Dock Safety and Railing Requirements

OSHA provides several safety parameters via their website ANSI also has an entire catalog of standards. This article should serve as a quick overview of the directives that OSHA and ANSI use to guide the safe operation of loading docks, fall protection situations, floor and wall openings and some other related topics.

We are not affiliated with OSHA nor are we the end all when it comes to OSHA or ANSI standards. Be sure to do your own research and planning when it comes to safety. I hope the material helps guide you to finding out exactly what you need.

This is NOT a cohesive list of all of the guidelines and standards that we meet. There are far too many to list here. This article points out the guidelines that we find to be most important in regards to our products.

OSHA Fall Protection Requirements

1910.28 includes unprotected sides and edges. "The employer must ensure each employee on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 4 feet (1.2m) or more above a lower level is protected from falling by one or more of the following guardrail systems; safety net systems; or personal fall protection system. "

General rules state that guarding floor and wall openings and holes requires fall protection from elevations of 4 feet in industry workplaces. Hazard areas must be guarded by "rail, roller, picket-fence, half-door or an equivalent barrier."

What ANSI thinks of this

ANSI A1264.1-2007Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access; Workplace, Floor, Wall and Roof Openings; Stairs and Guardrails Systems,” a document put out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE):

ANSI Barrier Requirements

Wall barriers for openings should be of such construction and mounting that, when in place at the opening, the barrier is capable of withstanding a load, as specified in 5.6.1.

5.6.1 The anchorage of posts and framing members for railing systems of all types shall be designed using standard engineering practices and safety factors. The completed railing systems shall be designed using standard engineering practices and safety factors. The completed railing systems shall be designed and constructed for its intended use to preclude system failure. As a minimum, it shall withstand a concentrated load of 200 pounds (90.7kg) applied in any direction, except upward, at the midpoint between posts without exceeding maximum allowable deflection. The intermediate rail shall be capable of withstanding a horizontal load of 160 pounds force applied perpendicularly at midpoint and midheight without exceeding the maximum allowable deflection of three inches (76mm). The end or terminal post shall be capable of withstanding a load of 200 pounds (90.7kg) applied in any direction at the top of the post. The above loads are not additive.

5.6.2 "removable railing system[s] constructed of flexible materials" requires these systems to be anchored by rigid supports spaced no more than 8 feet apart. If you must abide by ANSI standards only use our 8 foot models as in plant barriers. Max deflection and sag at the center point are also limited at 3 inches each, which our product meets when properly installed and tightened. Section E4.1.1 states "The guardrail system may be removable, but should preferably be hinged or otherwise mounted so as to be conveniently put back in service."

Our warehouse barrier nets are flexible, unlike other barriers which make them incredibly easy to stow away, being able to be unattached from one end, walked to the other to be hooked neatly until it is redeployed. Bollard bases are removable in order to quickly remove the top half on the bollard installed safety net systems. Our gate lineup has an EasyGlide folding gate which can easily open and be moved out of the way when not in use.

Read the entire ANSI document

Forklift Safety Requirements

According to Grainger Technical Resources: "The majority of all regulations for the loading dock environment link to the operation and design of forklifts used on loading docks."In the OSHA standards regarding Forklifts, one particular one stands out 1910.178(m)(6): “A safe distance shall be maintained from the edge of ramps or platforms while on any elevated dock, or platform or freight car.” Not only do our loading dock safety nets and loading dock safety gates visually indicate a safe distance from the edge of ramps or loading docks but they also provide a physical barrier past that safe edge, often capable of stopping or slowing forklifts. The Ultimate Defender Gate™ can stop a 13,000lb forklift traveling at 4mph.

Loading Dock Safety Chains vs. Barriers

Loading dock safety chain leaves much to be desired in the prevention of loading dock falls and forklift accidents. These chains allow people and product to pass under or over and offer only a single linear length of defense. We designed a safety mechanism that covered the entire distance below the OSHA required height of 42 inches, protecting from falls and product loss from the floor up. Another pain point we attacked was the costly maintenance of modern loading dock barriers, with most requiring certified maintenance workers or expensive replacement after impacts.

By leveraging the elasticity of polyester webbing and the superior strength of our stitching thread we were able to provide a forklift barrier that doesn't sustain structural damage. Not only is the cost of ownership dramatically reduced, but also the chances of system failure.

The Benefits of the Defender Gate System

1910.28 Each employee is protected from falling into a ladderway floor hole or ladderway platform hole by a guardrail system and toeboards erected on all exposed sides, except at the entrance to the hole, where a self-closing gate or an offset must be used.

It is important that each employee is protected from falling through a hatchway and chutefloor hole. Defender Gate™ safety barriers can be used in larger hole situation and our hatch netting products can be used in the instance of a small manhole style opening or rectangle floor opening.

1910.28(b)(7) Openings. The employer must ensure that each employee on a walking-working surface near an opening, including one with a chute attached, where the inside bottom edge of the opening is less than 39 inches (99 cm) above that walking-working surface and the outside bottom edge of the opening is 4 feet (1.2 m) or more above a lower level is protected from falling by the use of: Guardrail Systems, Safety Net Systems, and Travel Restraint Systems.

What about repair pits?

Repair pits, service pits, and assembly pits less than 10 feet in depth. The use of a fall protection system is not required for a repair pit, service pit, or assembly pit that is less than 10 feet (3 m) deep, provided the employer: 1910.28(b)(8)(i) Limits access within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the edge of the pit to authorized employees trained in accordance with § 1910.30;

Falling Object Protection

1910.29(a) "General requirements. The employer must ensure each fall protection system and falling object protection, other than personal fall protection systems, that this part requires meets the requirements in this section. The employer must ensure each personal fall protection system meets the requirements in subpart I of this part; and provide and install all fall protection systems and falling object protection this subpart requires, and comply with the other requirements in this subpart before any employee begins work that necessitates fall or falling object protection."

Fall Protection Height Requirements

1910.29(b)(1) This states that the top edge of the rail or system height are at least 42 inches +/- 3 inches, above the working surface. You may exceed 45 inches if the guardrail also has an intermediate railing or member is installed under the top rail at least 21 inches high. The midway rails should be installed at a height midway between the top of the system and the walking-working surface.

1910.29(b)(3) Guardrail systems should be able to withstand without failure, a force of at least 200 pounds (890 N) applied in a downward or outward direction within 2 inches (5 cm) of the top edge, at any point along the top rail.

"When the 200-pound (890-N) test load is applied in a downward direction, the top rail of the guardrail system must not deflect to a height of less than 39 inches (99 cm) above the walking-working surface."

The midrail should be able to handle

"Midrails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, solid panels, and other equivalent intermediate members are capable of withstanding, without failure, a force of at least 150 pounds (667 N) applied in any downward or outward direction at any point along the intermediate member."

For more information regarding guardrails and their use around openings and holes view 1910.29(b)(10) and up here: 1910.29(b)(10)

Always read the standards yourself!

OSHA guidelines are always subject to change

Since OSHA guidelines are always subject to change it is important that you review the current standards and regulations at These are a few directives via ANSI and OSHA that were found to correlate with our dock barriers and loading dock safety gates. Take a look at the dock solutions we have to help alleviate these issues in industry.

In Regards to Training

Not specific to loading docks but good to know

As a heads up, according to 1910.30 guidelines. Before any employee is exposed to a situation with a fall hazard they must have proper training. Any employee who will be using a personal fall protection system must receive training on these requirements on or before May 17, 2017. Also, 1910.30(b)(1) says that they should also be trained in the proper care, inspection of said equipment as well.

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