Preventing Contamination at the Dock

Losses from food that becomes contaminated during processing and handling can be astronomical, costing companies thousands and even millions of dollars for a single incident. These can include inventory that must be recalled, the cost of food disposal, the cost of administering the recall, and the cost of crisis-mode public relations efforts to mop up after the incident.

Loading dock equipment, originally meant to increase operational efficiency and to protect the safety of dockworkers, is now being enlisted to protect food products in cold and dry storage facilities as well as during production and transportation. Here are some warehouse solutions that can help a DC or processing facility strengthen their line of defense again contamination.

Make sure the doorway is sealed. Just because the door looks closed doesn’t always mean it is sealed. Forklift impacts are brutal on everything on and around the dock, especially dock doors, and can leave gaps along the sides of the doors that can let in pests and contaminants, and cold air out.

There is more attention being paid today to the dock door’s ability to seal the openings in food-based operations. Specialty and impactable dock doors are designed to provide a superior seal on the loading dock. These doors are equipped with thick foam panels and compression side and bottom seals, providing high-quality thermal protection to preserve a facility’s temperature and keep the elements and debris out.

Some models even include a full-height, 12 gauge galvanized steel track, an impactable track and thick insulated foam core panels with a damage-resistant polymer interior facing to provide the ideal addition to guard against forklift impacts and to help maintain a clean, safe facility.

These doors have an impactable design that allows them to stand up to the abuse they experience on the dock. They use heavy-duty, retractable plungers versus guide rollers and ride in a v-grooved track. When a fork lift or other object collides with the doors, the impact causes the plungers to retract, allowing the door to release from the opening and prevent panel damage. After the door is knocked out from the track, a light pull on the door handles resets the door, putting it back in operation quickly without damage.

Since door and track damage are some of the leading causes of broken seals and gaps on the doors, many companies elect to install an impactable track. A first line of defense against impacts on the door tracks, it runs from 3 feet, where most track impacts and damage occurs, up to the entire height of the door opening. Made of solid, ultra high molecular weight plastic, the tracks deflect forklifts and other material handling vehicles without sustaining any damage or exposing the facility to outdoor elements, dirt, debris, and pathogen carrying pests.

Is the dock floor an avenue for airflow and debris? Dock levelers are necessary to allow forklifts to safely access trailers and create the level interface between the warehouse and the trailer. Dock levelers are typically mounted in a concrete pit which creates small gaps between the edge and rear of the leveler and the pit wall which exposes the facility to air loss and the potential for contamination.

To alleviate any potential energy loss and the risk of spoilage through the gaps along the pit walls, facilities now have the option to install a perimeter weather seal on their dock levelers. The intention of adding this seal is to provide a superior seal along the sides and rear of the dock leveler to help prevent energy loss from air flow and contamination. The design closes off the gaps between the dock leveler and concrete pit that are often missed by traditional weather seals. As another feature, the weather seal fabric is not exposed to the face of the loading dock wall which keeps it out of harm’s way promoting long term durability.

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