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One kind of heavy duty portable ramp is designed for maximum safety when it comes to weight transfers off a truck or trailer. These ramps are supported by legs that can be adjusted to height. Using the legs means no weight from the ramp is resting on the trailer. The ramp doesn't get pressed onto the trailer, and the transfer of weight from the vehicle to the ramp is smooth and even. These heavy duty portable ramps are often operated by hand crank to adjust the height, which means no hydraulic system needing scheduled maintenance. It's important to remember that in spite of the "standalone" features of such a heavy-duty ramp, you should still attach the ramp to the trailer using safety chains to prevent mishaps.
There is plenty going on in the way of loading dock ramp design. Some are lightweight but pack a big punch in capacity and others can be folded like a suitcase. It is easy to find a design to fit your need when there are so many choices on the market. Here is a sampling, courtesy of beacontechnology.com:
According to the Whole Building Design Guide, a Web site where government and industry professionals provide guidance on building design, for a basic loading dock that includes a shipping and receiving dock for trucks and vans, a staging area, and at least one office space for dock supervisors or managers, a loading dock ramp should be provided from the loading dock down to the truck parking area to facilitate deliveries from small trucks and vans. And the maximum loading dock ramp slope should be 1:12. This does not apply to light industrial or warehouse spaces.
What does 1:12 mean, exactly? According to wheelchairramp.org, slope is the right-angle relationship of vertical height (rise) to horizontal length or projection (run). It is usually expressed as a ratio of these two measurements, with the rise figure frequently set at a unit of one. For example, a slope of 1:12 means that as each dimension unit of height changes, the other right-angle side projects out 12 units, which together result in a certain angle for the inclined, third side of the triangle. It's important to point out that the larger the run figure in a slope ratio, the gentler the angle for the inclined surface will be - a 1:16 slope, for example, is not as steep as a 1:12 slope. This fact is a source of initial confusion for many people, who conceptualize that a bigger number must mean a steeper slope.
Aluminum ramps can come as walk ramps for truck unloading, and also as vehicle ramps to allow vans, pickups and some types of passenger cars from ground level into high entrances. As always, a spotter is needed for use with these types of aluminum ramps.
It's also important to evaluate the capacity of the ramps you are using with the weight of the vehicles you need to load on the aluminum ramp. Some ramps are rated at 5,500 pounds, while others are rated as high as 7,000 pounds. This rating is per pair and not per individual ramp--an important factor to remember when calculating your weight ratios.
Never attempt to exceed the rated working height of the ramps. Moving vehicles can be a simple procedure, but the liabilities for cosmetic damage and other mishaps can be higher if the proper precautions aren't followed. Remember to check the clearances on your doorway before loading or unloading with the aluminum ramp. Remember that vehicle mirrors, antennas and other protruding objects may catch on the sides or roof of the doorway!
An autoloader portable ramp has all the usual qualities of other fiberglass loading ramps, but it can be separated to facilitate the loading of an automobile into a truck. In terms of safety for such an operation, it's very important to have a spotter, and use the e-brake once the vehicle has been parked inside the truck. Using portable ramp to load a vehicle is a simple operation but workers should remember to attach the ramp to the truck using the safety chains provided with the loading ramp. Chocks should also be used to prevent the vehicle from shifting inside the truck.
Various types of ramps can be used in the workplace. One of the most important types for operations with frequent truck loading and unloading is the heavy duty fiberglass walk ramp. This is a very good ergonomic solution for loading and unloading because the ramp keeps workers from straining their backs climbing in and out of the rear of the truck.
These ramps allow workers to use dollies, fork trucks and other equipment to move loads from truck to dockside, and many of these ramps have capacities up to 5,000 pounds. Backaches and slippage are a thing of the past with a ramp which allows for a gradual walking incline instead of a steep step up into the loading area of the truck.
Steel wheel riser ramps are made of heavy duty welded steel and elevate semi-trailers to loading docks for maximum serviceability during loading and unloading operations, according to beacontechnology.com. These ramps are designed with fork slots for easy transporting. They are also designed to be stackable for storage in confined spaces when not in use. They are in compliance with OSHA's 10 percent maximum grade of ascending or descending loaded fork trucks. They have a maximum capacity of 40,000 pounds per pair. They weigh between 183 and 644 pounds. They cost between $250 and $1,000 each.
A walkboard-style ramp is made for loading and unloading trucks and elevated areas where workers can't safely just hand things down from a ladder or step stool. There are two basic types. The light duty walkboard is rated for around 600 pounds, depending on the model, and is good for any kind of product loading or unloading operation using foot traffic. If you need mechanical assistance to help with a heavier load, the second kind of walkboard ramp is best; the heavy-duty model. These are rated for around four thousand pounds, depending on the model, and while lightweight, are much sturdier than the light-duty models.
Steel Wheel riser ramps are truck ramps designed to elevate a semi-trailer to the loading dock for loading and unloading. With up to a 40,000 pound capacity per pair, this is an excellent piece of equipment to have in a semi to cope with loading areas of varying heights.
If you are in the market for this kind of truck ramp, you should consider the optional pre-aligned and pre-spaced model. This option is a major convenience and safety factor---a lift truck can simply lower the pre-aligned truck ramps into place. The pre-spacing and aligning eliminates guesswork and increases the overall safety of the operation. It does not eliminate the need for a spotter, however. Even though the truck ramp is 'ready for use' a second person will be needed to insure the truck wheels are properly engaged with the ramp.
A loading ramp is made out of reinforced fiberglass and has a 5,000 pound capacity. The advantage of a loading ramp-which comes in models from 30-inches wide to 36-inches wide--allows your crew to safely unload pallets, heavy loads and bulk items.
There are some instances where your crew will need to evaluate whether the ramp is appropriate for unload. If the job calls for a fork lift, fork truck, simple dollies or other material handling equipment, depending on the width of the axles and the nature of the project, it may be best to leave the ramp for human traffic and use motorized equipment to unload the truck by wheeling the pallets or load to the edge of the truck.
If your workplaces safety manual doesn't address which situations are appropriate for ramps and which aren't, consider making an addition. Your veteran workers will know which loads are right for the appropriate job, but new hires may need additional guidance. An extra page in the safety book will eliminate guesswork and "make it official" which can also help cover your bases in case of a legal issue.
The aluminum walk ramp is an inexpensive alternative to the fiberglass ramp used for the same purpose--to use people and hand trucks to unload or load trucks. Because the aluminum ramp is rated for much less weight than the fiberglass model, it is unsuitable for most motorized material handling equipment.
Human traffic and non-motorized moving equipment on these ramps are fine, but remember to check the weight ratios of your cargo before trying to wheel it onto the aluminum ramp. If your cargo is heavier than 2,000 pounds, it is too heavy for even the sturdiest aluminum ramp. If you routinely load or offload cargo heavier than 2,000 pounds, it's best to use the fiberglass model for your operation.
Ask any vendor and you'll learn that more than 13 million people suffer from slip-and-fall related injuries every year. Ramp operations are particularly liable for such injuries because loading and unloading must happen regardless of weather conditions. Rain, ice, sleet, and snow can make the ramps unsafe for foot traffic, unless non-slip surfaces are installed to help improve traction in wet conditions. Rubberized, non-slip surfaces are manufactured specifically for these ramp surfaces, and in some cases the surfacing is good for more than ten years. A $120 investment on a ten-foot section of ramp over 10 years is definitely good business compared to the costs of workers compensation, hospitalization, and other expenses related to on-the-job mishaps due to slipping hazards.
Here are some Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations regarding loading dock ramps in the longshoring industry:
Why is loading dock ramp design so important? Because mistakes in dock design and equipment choices have costly consequences that ripple throughout the supply chain, says Walt Swietlik of the Rite-Hite Corporation.
Swietlik calls a loading dock the Material Transfer Zone (MTZ), where critical exchanges of raw materials and finished goods take place. MTZ productivity stems largely from intelligent facility design and proper loading dock equipment selection, he says. This includes choosing the right loading dock ramp design for your company.
Here is what business logistics managers need to consider when it comes to MTZ, according to Swietlik:
When using ramps in combination with powered vehicles, here are a few safety issues to remember:
1. Brake gently. The momentum of a sudden braking maneuver on a ramp can cause the ramp to pull away from the loading area, or collapse altogether depending on the force.2. Most people place chocks on the wheels of a truck to be loaded or unloaded, but many forget to fix the parking brake. Don't miss this important step.
3. Sometimes the weight of a forklift or other vehicle going up the ramp can actually raise the back of the trailer or truck. You can help prevent this by putting jack stands under the rear of the trailer.
4. When driving up a ramp, make certain you keep the "powered wheels" or drive wheels in the uphill direction.
When in doubt, always consult the owner's manual of your ramp for additional safety tips and precautions with specific load/unload operations.
Protector ramps are used when an operation has a piece of pipe, cable, or other "in-the-roadway" items that cannot be moved, and must be protected from damage. The protector ramp is laid over the pipe or hose, allowing hand trucks, dollies, and similar traffic to move across the area without damaging the pipe or hose. The protector ramp prevents any weight or impact to the pipe or hose, making it very useful indeed. It's important to keep in mind that these units are made for specific weight ratios. Don't assume they can handle vehicles such as cars or forklifts unless they are specifically rated for such large weight.
When buying ramps and other material handling solutions, often times you may be prompted to call or email for a price quote. This makes sense in many cases, but for some people, the idea of not being able to get a fixed price for simple solutions such as portable ramps may feel like an inconvenience. However, in many cases calling for a price quote can work to your financial gain, especially if you need more than one ramp or other item. "Bulk" purchases may be negotiable based on the "call-for-quote" system. If you see those magic words, don't automatically move on to another dealer, try calling for that quote first, make detailed notes, and compare prices.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|