Dock Seal Water Damage

Improve Safety and Prevent Weather Damage with Loading Dock Seals

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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
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:
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?
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?


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.

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