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With the launch of our new web site, we’ve added a blog. Here we’ll keep you updated on the latest news and trends for safety in the material handling industry. That may cover many topics, from the latest forecasts for manufacturing and material handling, updates in regulations and standards from OSHA and ANSI, as well as some of our safety gate installations and custom work.

On the blog you’ll also find updates from some of the organizations we belong to, like MHEDA and MHI, as well as MHI’s ProGMA Committee.

We’re looking forward to sharing our news and views with you, and if there is a topic you would like us to touch on, just let us know.

3 Safety Considerations for Overhead Handling

In today’s facilities, it’s very common to find material handling applications that use overhead equipment like cranes, vacuums or hoists to move material in and out of elevated pallet drop areas. Because employees usually work around these pallet drop areas, it is mandated that these areas provide fall protection.

However, overhead handling equipment can impact the type of fall protection and safety equipment used in the application. It’s important to answer three questions as you seek out the best safety solution — often it’s a dual-gate system, which is mandated by ANSI.

What is the application?
We’ve seen a variety of applications that use overhead equipment. Some applications use the overhead equipment to both load and unload material, with employees picking from the loads while they are in the pallet drop area. Other applications are near hoppers or mixers, with the overhead equipment used to drop off a super sack so employees can open and dump the ingredients into the mixer.

If the application is chemical or food-based, you may need to ensure any fall protection equipment is constructed of stainless steel. This is also the case if the environment in which the equipment is located will be subject to frequent rinsing or extreme temperatures.

How/where do employees interact with the overhead machinery and material?
Given the nature of overhead handling, any safety equipment must allow for the crane, hoist or vacuum to have room to drop the material in the proper space. This means overhead space must be clear. In addition, any swinging motions by the overhead equipment must be taken into consideration so the safety gates can be sure to clear that motion.

Take worker movements into account. How far from the ledge do your employees work? Do they pick from one side of the pallet, or are they moving the heaving material from the drop area to another spot? If side access is necessary, safety gates can be made to allow access on both sides from a ninety degree angle.

How much space is there on the platform with material?
This is an important factor in selecting safety equipment. The space for the pallet drop area and for employees to work with the material is important, as you don’t want the safety barriers impeding productivity.

Measure the space, and be sure to note any special details about the application before you reach out to your safety equipment provider. Safety gates can be customized for width and depth.

Once you’ve answered those three questions, you are ready to move ahead with the purchase of safety equipment. Make sure the safety equipment provides fall protection at all times. Chains that “protect” employees from an elevated ledge can be left open and also provide another safety hazard - the potential for tripping over the chain when it’s closed.

Our Open Top safety gate is ideal for applications with overhead equipment, as the dual-gates are connected on a side so there are no overhead mechanics. This dual-gate design features ergonomically counterbalanced gates with a hydraulic gas assist mechanism that make for easy operation. When the ledge gate opens to the side, the rear gate closes, preventing employees from falls off the platform. The gates are connected with solid torque shaft and hardened gears, which are housed in a metal enclosure to protect the components and to keep people’s hands away from the moving parts.

Overhead vacuums or chain hoists can then access the pallet drop area and can pass through overhead. When the ledge gate is closed, it creates a fall protection barrier at the ledge, and the rear gate opens to the side, allowing employees to safely access the material. In addition to accommodating overhead obstructions, the Open Top is also a good solution if tall pallets are being loaded into the pallet drop area.