Blog / Loading dock safety and dock seal fire.

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Loading Dock Safety, How to Achieve It ?

Warehouses are large, open rooms or structures commonly used to receive, organize, store, and ship goods to customers or other facilities. Most warehouses have a loading dock where trucks can be loaded for shipment of finished goods. High noise levels, limited visibility, use of heavy equipment, and 24 hour operations can make warehouses and loading docks extremely dangerous work areas. To safely work in this environment, employees should be properly trained to recognize and avoid common hazards.The number of loading dock fires has severely increased in the last couple of decades. At first, nobody knew the exact cause of their occurrence, or if they did, they were clearly wrong.

The first scenario that made sense was that loading dock fires were caused by trucks or trailers that had damaged lights. It made perfect sense at the time. The fires would start only when the vehicles were docked and with their engines on. It was thought that the bulb filament made contact with the seal, which was made of polyurethane foam, vinyl, or Hypalon. All of these are flammable, so it was easy to draw this conclusion.

The real cause of loading dock fire.

However, fire investigators have made a surprising discovery. A loading dock seal fire would not start only from damaged lights. Quite the contrary actually. Most of the vehicles had perfectly functional ones. So what would cause the flames? It was indeed the lights at fault, but not for the reason people initially thought. It seems that they would concentrate a sufficient amount of heat on a slight area. The phenomenon resembles with the use of a magnifying glass as a way to start a fire.

Apparently, the marker lights on a truck or trailer, with some help from their foam insulated pads, can create very high temperatures. This particular foam produces a gas when heated, a gas which is able to ignite if the temperature is 800º F or higher.

As you may have guessed, the truck lights can generate a temperature greater than 800º F in about 20 minutes, and so the loading dock seal fire would start when the trucks would pull away (as a result of oxygen exposure.)

What can happen ?

The damages can be extended, especially if the fire is not caught on time. A loading dock seal is not very expensive, but if the fire spreads to the contents of the storage area, or if the fire is located in a commercial area, like a mall for example, then the damages can rise as up as a few tens of thousands of dollars. Each company knows its loss when it comes to stopping the production and full eviction, so they would better find a viable solution.

How to prevent dock seal fire?

How to avoid loading dock seal fire ? The answer does not lie with the light bulbs. It’s not them which must be improved, but the loading dock seals. For a better loading dock safety, companies should invest in high-quality loading dock seals/ shelters that are made of fire resisting materials. Only this way the fires will stop from happening.

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