Relevant OSHA Regulations
OSHA 1910.178(m)(6) Powered Industrial Trucks. This regulation requires that “a safe distance shall be maintained from the edge of ramps or platforms while on any elevated dock.” However, it does not define that safe distance.
OSHA 1917.112 (b)(1), Marine Terminals, Guarding of Edges. “Guardrails shall be provided at locations ... which present a hazard of falling more than 4 feet or into the water.” However, it goes on to say, “Guardrails are not required at loading platforms and docks.”
Other Relevant Guidelines
OSHA Proposed Rulemaking on Walking and Working Surfaces: April 1990. Published but never fully adopted, this proposal was referenced in a December 1997 Standards Interpretation letter and states: “employers would not be required to install guardrail systems on the working side of platforms, such as loading docks, where the employer can demonstrate that the presence of guardrails would prevent the performance of work.”
OSHA Proposed Standard for Walking-Working Surfaces (May 2010). The proposed standard indicates that guarding is needed on loading docks for heights of 4 feet or more, unless people work an undefined distance away from the edge. But there is an exception. If guardrails are infeasible, work may be done without guardrails if the work is in process, only authorized employees have access, and authorized employees are trained.
ANSI Standard A12.1264.1 Safety Requirements for Workplace Floor, Wall Openings, Stairs + Railings. The American National Standards Institute states that loading docks are an exception for requiring fall protection.