The Dallas House of Blues provides the perfect stage setting for acts like the Deftones and the Dave Matthews Band to entertain crowds every night, but it's what happens backstage that caused material handlers to sing the blues. The designers of the dock serving the 1920s-era warehouse this club now calls home could never anticipate their building would house a nightclub. But today, through its back door, the entourages of national musical acts haul their instruments, amps, stage lighting and backdrops to mount full stage shows.
The dock wasn't set up for this constant traffic of people and freight. Employees were struggling with the tight quarters and the repetitive bending and lifting required to unload and load trucks each night. According to House of Blues facilities manager Joshua Kibbe, "We have just one door into the back from the dock and from there we have everything that is going to be played, served, worn, or used in the club going across this dock."
The limitations of the dock became even more apparent after the building underwent a major remodeling. Laura Harrison and team, from Corgan Architects, realized that they only had a 24" dock height on the existing building. A lower dock meant more bending and lifting during loading and unloading. This was a safety problem that needed a solution before someone on a setup crew suffered a serious back injury.
After considering the construction of truck well recesses and concrete ramps, management detailed the issue to their local material handling equipment provider. They then arrived at what they felt was the best approach: hydraulic dock lifts. These would bring heavy loads to a comfortable and ergonomically-appropriate lifting level, from a trailer or van, regardless of height.
Now, two pit-mounted hydraulic lifts made from high tensile steel tubing keep traffic moving in and out of the club's tight space and tight schedules. They keep workers from bending to lift materials from truck or ground level.
"If this was a typical theme restaurant, efficiency and lifting wouldn't be that big of an issue," notes Kibbe. "But here we have a different band performing every night with a lot of equipment as well as food service that has to move in and out quickly."
The lifts are designed to bring the dock to the trailer, van or person and can handle heights from 28" to 60" high, raising and lowering loads to where they're needed via dual hydraulic cylinders in under a minute. Velocity fuses on the lift cylinders prevent the lift from free falling if hydraulic power is lost. The operator controls the lift dock motion with the pre-wired, NEMA-4X push button hand-held control.
This capability brings added safety to the House of Blues dock. Much of their traffic is caster-mounted loads that are manually pushed along to the lift. The lift reduces the ramp angle to the back of vehicles so band members or food service employees simply roll the load from the back of the vehicle up onto the lift and then raise it to the dock.
These dock lifts help the House of Blues accommodate a variety of load types and sizes without slowing down operations while reducing the risk of sprain and strain injuries on employees. Off-loading and loading at the House of Blues is now more ergonomic because the lifts bring the equipment to the worker, no longer the other way around.
Doug McLeod is director of lift products for Kelley loading dock solutions from 4Front Entrematic (www.kelleycompany.com).