Loading Dock Injury


How does a metal plate intended to bridge the gap between a truck and the loading dock become a safety hazard? In this case, a dock plate provided at a Portland area building was too small to work with some delivery trucks, but no guidance was provided for proper use. The end result was an unexpected fall and severe knee injury.

Heiling Dwyer Attorneys asked for a 3d model to visualize the scene and test how the dock plate worked with different truck positions. This particular plate was designed with a service height range of 3 inches difference between the truck bed and loading dock. Anything more and a gap occurs under the leading edge of the dock plate. This is a tripping hazard and reduces surface contact which can lead to unintended dock plate movement.

In this case, workers were unloading a truck that was more than three inches above the loading dock. They tried moving the truck farther away from the dock which reduced, but did not completely eliminate the gap under the leading edge of the dock plate. Having the truck farther away also meant the angle flanges bolted to the bottom of plate were not in the proper position to resist lateral movement. Ultimately, the dock plate shifted during use, enough to cause a fall when the plaintiff stepped on it. A more robust dock leveling device would have prevented this injury.

During our first review meeting, it quickly became apparent that the 3d model was a valuable tool for facilitating conversations and getting immediate answers to questions such as, “what if they had installed the dock plate backwards,” or “what if they had used a larger dock plate?” When it became necessary to add another expert to the team a few weeks before trial, a screen-share meeting with real-time 3d modeling ensured good communication.

This work gave the attorneys confidence that their story would be well understood by a jury, and put them in a strong negotiating position. A confidential settlement was reached shortly before trial.


We had a good case, but Fat Pencil made it a powerful case. Their images conveyed far more than all our words could express.

Dean Heiling, Heiling Dwyer Fernandes

Joshua Cohen is a Principal at Fat Pencil Studio