Dock Seal Water Damage

Improve Safety and Prevent Weather Damage with Loading Dock Seals

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Loading docks are one of the busiest and potentially most hazardous areas of industrial workplaces. There are many moving parts such as heavy equipment and foot traffic that continuously move throughout the loading dock daily. One small error can result in a severe or fatal injury. It is crucial to keep loading docks dry and safe and to follow the right safety protocols.

Loading dock seals are important in improving loading dock safety and efficiency. In this article, we will explore what loading dock seals and loading dock shelters are, the benefits that they offer, and other loading dock products that you should consider to both improve the safety of your loading dock and help safeguard your investment by preventing costly weather damage.  

Dock Seal Water Damage
Dock Seal Water Damage
What is a loading Dock Seal?

A loading dock seal is a pad that creates a tight closure between the loading dock and the truck to reduce energy costs and keep out water (rain/snow) and pests.

What is a Loading Dock Seal?

A loading dock seal is an exterior structure that surrounds a loading dock door to provide a tight closure between the loading dock opening and the trailer. Loading dock seals protect the trailer and both the interior and exterior of the building from damage. The tight seal keeps water and pests out and can significantly reduce energy costs by maintaining consistent temperatures.

The most common types of loading dock seals feature a compression design. This provides a gasket-type seal between the sides and top of the trailer and the building. The term “loading dock seal” is often used interchangeably with “loading dock shelter,” but there are some important differences. For instance, a loading dock shelter generally does not offer an airtight seal. They are also more enclosed than seals, flexible, and may retract upon impact to prevent damage.

Types of Loading Dock Seals and Shelters

There are several different types of loading dock seals and shelters. These include:

  • Foam curtain loading dock seals. Made from durable padding that creates an airtight seal between the trailer and building upon contact.
  • Retractable dock shelters. Retract upon impact with the trailer. This flexibility protects the shelter from damage if hit by a poorly aligned trailer.
  • Soft-sided shelters. Acts as both a seal and shelter. Similar to retractable dock shelters in that they will yield to impact from an off-center trailer to avoid damage.
  • Rigid shelters. Feature top and side curtains that flex inward. Conforms to the trailer as it backs into the shelter, providing a fairly tight seal. 

Benefits of Loading Dock Seals

Loading dock seals offer many safety and financial benefits.

Increased energy savings

Loading dock seals keep heat out in the summer and cold out in the winter. An airtight seal can significantly reduce your facility’s energy costs. Some experts estimate that failing to close the gaps between loading dock doors and trailers can cost companies more than $1,200 per dock in lost energy costs per year.

Increased security against unauthorized entries and stolen goods

Loading dock seals minimize gaps between the building and the trailer. This prevents intruders from entering buildings and trailers and leaving with your valuable merchandise.

Create a safer environment for workers in the loading dock area

Wet areas in loading docks can cause slip-and-fall injuries. Moreover, high winds can cause workers to lose their balance when loading or unloading trucks. Loading dock seals help keep floors dry by keeping rain and snow out, protecting loading docks from strong gusts of wind, and minimizing fumes. A loading dock seal also protects workers from pest-borne illnesses by keeping bugs and pests from getting inside the warehouse.

Keeping the outside elements from entering the warehouse also helps protect your building’s infrastructure and inventory.

Improve the Life of Loading Dock Doors

Loading dock doors are constantly exposed to the elements such as rain, snow, and wind. These elements cause wear and tear over time. Adding a loading dock seal and metal canopy above the door minimizes the impact that elements have on the exterior of your doors, greatly reduces excess wear and tear, and prolongs the lifecycle of your doors.

Increased operational efficiency

A loading dock is one of the busiest areas in every warehouse. Loading dock seals eliminate potential hazards that can slow workers down. For example, workers do not need to avoid puddles or worry about dangerous gaps near the trailer. And since it is easier to maintain an optimal temperature in the loading dock area, workers are more comfortable and get more done.

The Better Option: Loading Dock Seal or Loading Dock Shelter?

When it comes to choosing between a loading dock seal or a loading dock shelter, there are several important points to consider.

  • Price – Loading dock shelters tend to be more expensive than loading dock seals. But some high-end dock seal models can be pricier than dock shelters. Make sure to keep your budget in mind when you begin researching different options.
  • Seal – Loading dock seals generally provide superior, air-tight seals. But this can depend on whether the top of the dock seal features a head curtain or head pad and what other sealing features are included. Some dock shelters can provide excellent seals while others leave significant gaps.
  • Head Curtain – The head curtain for a loading dock seal must be manually adjusted. Higher-end loading dock shelters use weight and gravity to automatically position and maintain contact with the roof of the trailer.
  • Versatility – Loading dock seals tend to be the better option for relatively small loading docks, do not service a broad range of trailer sizes, and/or the space between door openings is tight. Loading dock shelters can fit larger openings, can serve a variety of trailer sizes, and are flexible which makes them ideal for tight spaces.
  • Durability – Dock shelters are less susceptible to wear and tear given their construction. The durability of loading dock seals can be improved by adding features such as friction-resistant fabric and reinforcement boots.

Other Key Loading Dock Products

In addition to loading dock seals and loading dock shelters, some other products can significantly improve the safety, efficiency, and durability of your dock. These include:

  1. Dock Bumpers
    Stops trucks that are backing up at the loading dock. Protects the building and trailer from damage. Common types of dock bumpers include steel face, laminated, and molded.
  2. Dock Levelers
    Bridge the gap between the building and trailer. Common types include mechanical, air-powered, hydraulic, and edge-of-dock varieties.
  3. Truck Restraints
    Help prevent premature truck departure and trailer creep to reduce the occurrence of dock accidents. The most common types are impact and non-impact styles that feature either manual or power-activated models.
  4. Dock Lights and Fans
    Dock lights illuminate the back of the trailer during loading and unloading to increase safety. Fans improve airflow into the trailer to improve air quality and maintain comfortable working conditions.
  5. Loading Dock Steps
    OHSA compliant loading dock stairs for warehouses and distribution centers ensure that your workers are safe with features such as slip-resistant treads and solid aluminum construction that will never rust, warp, or rot.
  6. Loading Dock Canopies
    Positioned above the loading dock door and cantilever out over the trailer. Loading dock canopies help to protect seals, shelters, doors, trailers, and merchandise from the elements. This helps to prolong the lifecycles of these components and to maximize your ROI. Property owners usually purchase one long canopy that covers all loading dock doors, but it is also possible to buy separate canopies for each door.  
Example of warehouse loading dock stairs
Example of warehouse loading dock stairs

Loading Dock Safety Safety Protocols Checklist

Download PDF Checklist

Loading Dock Safety ChecklistYesNo
Training
Is safety and health training and written material provided to dock workers?
Are annual refresher trainings provided to all dock workers?
Is motorized and non-motorized equipment training provided to dock workers?
Are dock workers trained in proper wheel chocking procedures?
Are dock workers trained in the proper use of dock levelers or bridge plates?
Material Handling Equipment – does all motorized equipment have the following:
Lights
Horn
Emergency brakes
Operator’s manual
Daily operator safety checklist
Loading Area
Are dock bumpers in good repair?
Are dock approaches free from potholes?
Are trailer positions marked with lines or lights for accurate trailer spotting?
Are wheel chocks used to prevent trailer movement during loading and unloading?
Are there two trailer wheel chocks for each trailer?
Are trailer wheel chocks chained to the building?
Are warning signs or lights in use?
If dock levelers are used, are they in proper working order?
Is the leveler or dock plate capacity adequate for the types and weights of the loads?
Miscellaneous
Do truck drivers have a place to wait while the trailer is (un)loaded?
Are truck engines turned off during the (un)loading operation?
Do all dock workers and visitors wear personal protective equipment when required?
Are carbon monoxide levels monitored to evaluate dock worker exposure?
Is lighting adequate?
Are emergency exits kept unblocked?

Conclusion

Loading docks are among the busiest and most hazardous areas in industrial workplaces. Loading dock seals and loading dock shelters can help improve the safety, efficiency, and durability of your docks. Incorporating other loading dock products such as metal canopies can offer additional protection from the elements to further improve safety and prolong the life of your dock doors and other key components.

Related Content

Picture of Solar Panels

Big-Time Solar Panel Contractor Cited for OSHA Violations

A well-known solar panel contractor has been cited for exposing workers to dangerous fall hazards. The company headquartered in Louisiana is one of the leading solar panel installers in the nation. OSHA issued a third-party citation after an investigation found that it violated federal workplace safety requirements despite being previously cited twice in two years.

Following an inquiry by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Marc Jones Construction LLC – also known as Sunpro Solar – for a repeat safety violation after inspectors discovered employees exposed to falls, the most common cause of death and severe injuries in the construction business. Furthermore, the government agency cited the firm for permitting staff to climb up and down extension ladders while holding items that may have prompted them to fall and for screwing up to offer employees a fall safety program.

Marc Jones Construction LLC had received two repeat violations prior, which are issued when an employer previously experienced a similar breach of the same standard or regulation. OSHA referred the Louisiana-based company for similar violations twice in Texas, San Antonio in January 2021, and El Paso in April 2020. “This is another example that falls continue to be one of the leading causes for death and serious injury in construction work,” said DOL OSHA Regional Administrator Condell Eastmond. The OSHA fined the company almost $161,000 in penalties for the violations it committed.

side-view-commercial-metal-awning

Based in Mandeville, Louisiana, Marc Jones Construction LLC is a business and residential solar panel installation firm with operations in 21 states. Sunpro Solar, formed in 2008, was named second on “Solar Power World” magazine’s rank of leading home solar installers in the United States in 2021.

After receiving the citations and fines, the organization has 15 business days to cooperate, seek an informal meeting with OSHA’s local director, or appeal the allegations before the independent OSHA commission.

Roofing contractors have become a target of OSHA inspections. At least five roofing contractors were cited in 2018 for violating workplace safety requirements, including one in Kentucky. The installation of metal awnings is being considered to be prone to fall hazards. This is the reason why Upside Innovations is providing experts to ensure that there are no untoward incidents in your workplace or your facilities. Upside Innovations stays committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and protecting the environment through safe work practices.

Roof-mounted railings are a common type of safety measure employed by contractors. Guardrails with safety swing gates are generally placed six feet from the edge of the roof. If anything near the border, like a condenser unit, barriers are needed right up to it.

It may be unappealing to put bright yellow barriers around the perimeter of the roof. There are methods to meet OSHA standards without resorting to such measures. Galvanized rails, for example, are less obtrusive visually but might be prone to corrosion. This is why aluminum handrails are recommended for them to be more durable in weather conditions on the rooftop.

The use of guardrails is also an architectural problem. Some building owners, for example, surround the roof with bright yellow rails. It is under OSHA standards, but it gives the impression that the facility is always under construction and distracted from other structure areas. There are several alternative products available to assist building owners in acquiring OSHA permits. What is important is that building workers and visitors are kept safe in case of stair accidents or slips happen in these building areas.

aluminum walkway canopy

5 Essential Walkway Canopy Elements to Consider

Aluminum walkway canopies add value to any commercial property, and they last much longer than fabric canopies. Below are 5 elements to consider when determining the best walkway canopy layout.

aluminum walkway canopy quote button
Powder-coated brown walkway canopy between parking garage and modular office
white aluminum walkway canopy connecting two buildings on medical facility
walkway canopy for sloped walkway

1. Walkway Width

A commercial sidewalk must be at least 5′ wide to comply with ADA regulations. Any sidewalk that is less than 5′ wide must have areas every 200′ called ‘passing spaces’ that measure 5′ x 5′. To avoid pouring concrete for passing spaces, most commercial sidewalks are at least 5′ wide. Therefore, our canopy is usually between 5′ and 6′ wide, but the maximum width that it can span is 12′.

2. Walkway Length

If you want the entire sidewalk covered, measure the distance from one end of the sidewalk to the other. If you want partial coverage, measure only the area you want to be covered.

3. Changes In Direction

To design the canopy correctly, we need to know if there are any changes in direction. The most accurate way to give us information about changes in direction is to send us an overhead picture or layout drawing of the sidewalk or walkway.

If the sidewalk makes a turn and has a step-down or up, we will design the canopy so that one section steps overlaps the other section at an angle. If the sidewalk changes direction on level ground, we can cut the canopy decking at the specified angle of the turn.

Canopy cut at an angle
Canopy cut at an angle
Overlapping canopy that has a step
Overlapping canopy that has a step

Below is an actual Upside walkway canopy layout.

canopy change in direction layout

4. Changes In Elevation

There are two ways to design the walkway canopy to accommodate a ramp or step system within the walkway. First, one canopy section would step down from the higher canopy section. The higher canopy section would hang over the lower one so that rain does not come through the gap. The second option is to cut the canopy posts at different lengths to counteract the elevation change.

Canopy that steps down with taller posts
Canopy that steps down with taller posts
Overlapping canopy that steps down
Overlapping canopy that steps down

5. Barriers

People tend to forget about structures that might be in the way of a walkway canopy; consider structures like power lines, light posts, and trees. It is possible to design a solution if the barrier is known, but if it is discovered after the canopy arrives at the site, it can be difficult to provide a quick solution.

Photo of Black Loading Dock Canopy

4 Ways to Keep Loading Docks Dry and Safe

Slips and falls are the leading cause of workplace injuries, and they cost employers billions of dollars each year. One area of the industrial workplace that is very prone to slips and falls is the loading dock area. There are many moving parts and heavy equipment that are used around the loading dock, and one small error can result in death. A large contributor to slips and falls is the slipperiness of the loading dock area which is from either precipitation or condensation. Read our dock safety checklist and check out the following 4 ways to reduce the slipperiness around the loading dock below.

1. Overhead canopy

A loading dock canopy is positioned above the dock door and cantilevers out over the trailer. A typical canopy above a dock door extends between 4 and 5 feet over the trailer. Industrial property owners usually choose to purchase a long canopy that runs the entire length of the building to cover all of the dock doors, but it is an option to purchase separate canopies for the individual doors.

Overhead canopy for loading dock

Where to find overhead canopies: Upside Innovations LLC

2. Dock door seals or shelters

Dock door seals are located all around the door as a guide for trucks docking at the facility and also to prevent outdoor elements from coming inside. When the trailer presses against the seal, it compresses and should create an air-tight seal. One way to check the seal, is to look for light from outside that may come in when a trailer is pressed against the seal. If there is light coming through, then there is not a good seal, and water is bound to get in.

Dock shelters are more enclosed than the seals; they are comprised of fabric curtains fitted with fiberglass stays that put pressure on the sides of the trailer. Shelters are more common than dock seals when the dock door openings are large and service a variety of trailer heights.

Where to find dock seals and shelters: McCormick Equipment Company Inc.RiteHitePentalift

dock door shelter
Loading Dock Door Shelter
dock door seal
Loading Dock

3. Impactable doors

Damage to dock doors frequently occur due to the forklift or trailer bumping into them. If a non-impactable door is bumped and put of the track, then moisture is allowed in until the door is fixed – which may take a while. When an impactable door is bumped, it releases from the track but can be easily put back in place.

Where to find impactable doors: RiteHite, Rice Equipment Co., Inc.

Loading dock solutions

4. HVLS fan

Moisture develops inside the warehouse when the humid air from outside enters the facility and condenses on surfaces that are at or below the dew point temperature. When this happens on the floor, a phenomenon called the “sweating slab syndrome” occurs. High volume, low speed (HVLS) fans reduce moisture in the air by moving large volumes of air at low speeds which dissipates the moisture and makes the air drier.

hlvs fan

Where to find HVLS fans: RiteHite, Humongous Fan

How an HVLS fan works
white aluminum walkway canopy connecting two buildings on medical facility

4 Types of Industrial Aluminum Canopy Designs

There are countless variations of commercial and industrial aluminum canopy designs that can be applied to schools, retail outlets, warehouses, etc., but below are the four main variations of canopies:

1. Walkway Canopy

Walkway canopies usually cover an ADA-compliant pathway, which means they are typically wider than 5 feet. The maximum span for most aluminum walkway canopies is 12 feet, so a canopy post is required every 12 feet. Are you considering a walkway canopy? Read the 5 Essential Walkway Canopy Elements to Consider.

Common applications: schools, correctional facilities, churches, retail outlets

Sidewalk canopy for correctional facility
Sidewalk Canopy for Correctional Facility
aluminum walkway canopy for modular school building
Aluminum Walkway Canopy for School

2. Entry Canopy

Entryway canopies are bolted to the building above the doorway or entryway and protrude out from the building. These canopies can be combined with a ramp and/or a set of stairs that lead away from the building. Entryway canopies can be designed to change elevation as the ramp and/or stairs change elevation.

Common applications: storefronts, schools, recreational facilities

Heavy duty industrial canopy
Large Entryway Canopy
Aluminum canopy over door
Modular Building Entry Canopy

3. Canopy Between Buildings

An industrial aluminum canopy can be located between two temporary, modular buildings that are close together, but they can connect permanent buildings as well.

Canopies are connected to the buildings using two methods: 1) The canopy can be bolted to the building’s outside walls, or 2) the canopy can be placed above the two buildings so that it has posts and overhangs the edges of the building and provides full coverage.

Common applications: classrooms, offices, storage facilities

4. Cantilever Canopy

Cantilever canopies are secured to the side of the building using a tie-rod or ‘support arm’ that angles upwards from the edge of the canopy. The primary reason for using cantilever canopies over another style of the canopy is to get rid of the canopy posts.

Common applications: warehouse loading dock zones, restaurant drive-thru windows, and commercial building entrances.

Buildings such as schools and hospitals often have a lot of foot traffic, and canopy designs in their walkways can provide several benefits.

First, canopies can protect from the elements, such as rain and sun, which is especially important for buildings like schools and hospitals where people may be outside for extended periods. This can make the walkways more comfortable and accessible for students, staff, patients, and visitors.

Second, canopy designs can provide additional security and privacy for buildings like schools and hospitals. They can create a barrier between the building and the outside, making it more difficult for outsiders to see into the building and potentially providing a sense of security.

Finally, canopy designs can also enhance the overall aesthetic of the building, making it more attractive and inviting. Establishments like schools and hospitals often offer community resources and services and must present an open-for-all image to the public.

Our Services

Our team designs, manufactures, ships, and installs ADA & IBC-compliant stairs, ramps and canopies to fit YOUR custom project. Our experts will work with you throughout the project to ensure your installation is correct to your specifications and code compliant.

Design Version 2Next serviceManufacture V2 GraphicNext serviceShip Icon V2Next serviceInstall Version 2