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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.

Open Top safety gate for fall protection

4 Areas on Production Platforms That Require Custom Fall Protection

Manufacturing facilities, especially those that have production platforms with mixers for ingredients, often have to use every bit of available space for the various applications performed in the facility. Employees often work in these applications, so safety devices are a necessity, especially when the employees are working from height.

Chemical and food production facilities are often full of production platforms. Many of these plants have large reactors or mixers with hoppers accessed by elevated platforms positioned near the top of the vessels. Typically a lift truck loads pallets of ingredients onto these upper levels for employees to load into these mixers. Employees, often positioned near a ledge, must remove heavy bags from the pallet, slice them open and pour them into the large mixer.

The mixer is often located near the pallet drop area to limit the distance the employee has to travel with the heavy bag. A series of catwalks and small mezzanines around the mixer and the production machinery often complete the area. This limited space leaves very little room for employee, product and proper fall protection guarding, which can expose employees to a high risk for incidents like falls.

While this application is fairly common, each manufacturing facility has its own unique space constraints. Regardless of the constraints, all pallet drop areas on elevated platforms need to be properly guarded for fall protection, but areas on production platforms where employees are asked to work around the ledge, often in a hostile environment, need to be taken seriously. This is often tiring, repetitive work in a dusty or wet environment so companies must take safety out of employee’s hands, and give them one less thing to think about during the day.

Due to the nature of applications that are typical of chemical or food manufacturing, securing the areas on which employees work can be challenging. That may be why fall protection safety is sometimes left to a piece of chain, which is not enough to keep employees safe or meet OSHA codes and ANSI standards. This is not a type of situation where you can ignore safety and at the same time, most standard solutions will not be the right fit, may pose hazards.

Here are four examples of applications in chemical and food manufacturing in which custom solutions are most often required to make sure employees have adequate fall protection.

No Room on the Platform:
Due to the complexity of the the applications in the areas that needed to be secured in most processing facilities, there is often little room on the platform to accommodate a safety barrier. In these instances, custom designed safety gates are needed as they often need to be worked into the existing framework of the platform. For example, a custom designed safety gate may affix to the handrail instead of the walkway floor to provide dual-gate protection while taking up a minimum amount of space.

Rotating Pallets:
When a pallet drop area includes a turntable that rotates 360 degrees, there are often additional challenges that make custom safety solutions a necessary choice. There may be hindrances such as low overhead, the traffic patterns of lift trucks and how the trucks enter the platform, or there may be infringements from a ramp or mixer that impact how a safety gate could be used. Custom safety gate designs should accommodate the pallets and drop area requirements; they must also ensure the applications and processes are not impacted while providing a safe work environment.

Blending Hoppers:
Blending hoppers are often positioned close to a ledge so the employee can simply pick up the sack from the pallet, turn and dump the bag of ingredients into the hopper without carrying the bag. In these instances, there is usually limited depth which does not provide adequate room for a traditional dual-gate safety system. Safety gate systems that use gates that have rear-side gates that raise up and out of the way to allow access to the pallet while the ledge gate is closed are needed here. With this type of custom system in place, an employee can grab the bag around the pallet and dump it freely into the hopper while a barrier is in place at the ledge to prevent a fall.

Overhead Hoists and Vacuums:
Many processing plants use overhead hoists to load and unload materials. In some operations, overhead hoists lift materials up to an elevated work platform instead of using a lift truck. This is the traditional method of lifting super sacks up to the processing platform where they can be dumped into hoppers. Other facilities may use a lift truck to elevate the material up to the platform, but then will use an overhead hoist to access the material once they are ready to work with the material. This is a common method of emptying drums of ingredients off of a pallet. An Open Top safety gate design that features with no overhead components that would integrate with the overhead equipment are necessary in this case. The custom solutions can provide interconnected gates that close on one side while opening the other, preventing employee falls.

Safety Gate Automation: 4 Keys to Success

Speed and efficiency is a goal of any business today, especially in material handling, distribution and manufacturing. Customers today want to ensure they are operating at their highest levels, and given this goal and the rise of available technologies, automation is top of mind for most of our customers.

However, automation of safety equipment is not always top of mind. In fact, manual operation of our safety gates used to be our first recommendation, and it is still a very popular and viable option. We also recognize that power operation and complementary technologies for safety equipment is often needed for automated applications and processes. While many facilities are undergoing changes to include automated processes, safety of employees is still of utmost importance.

More companies are looking to ensure safety equipment, including dual-gate systems for fall protection, around pallet drop areas makes a positive impact rather than impede automation or efficiency. Any technology used for safety gates must be designed in a fashion to help companies speed their operations, especially those that incorporate AGVs and lift trucks, without compromising safety.

There are many different ways to configure power and technology, from push button stations to remote control operations. Whether you are retrofitting power to existing safety gates or planning to purchase new systems, keep these four key points in mind to achieve success.

Motors Matter
The first thing to keep in mind when you look to power operate a safety gate is that it is a commercial motor that works for your environment. You must ensure it has enough horsepower to match the expected use of the safety gate. If your application is very repetitive, you’ll want to make sure it can provide speed as well. Size and placement of the motors can also be an issue, so it’s important to discuss these issues before choosing a motor.

Environments Matter Too
Where is the application located? Is it in a climate-controlled environment that is extremely hot or cold? Is there a need for rinsing the environment? Ensure the motor that you use is able to operate within any conditions that may be present in the facility. Motors are available in water- and explosion-proof options, and numerous controls, such as flashing lights and caution alarms, can be added.

Capture the Signal
Power operation alone is not enough to ensure your speed and efficiency is at its highest. Technology is needed to allow the safety gates to communicate with other plant equipment and software, and we offer our safety gate customers integration options with many different technologies.

For example, controls and sensors integrated with power operation on our safety gates send AGVs a signal when the ledge gate is up, telling it to load material to the pallet drop area. After the pallets are loaded, the sensors from the AGV send a signal to the safety gate to use the motor to close the ledge-side gate so employees can work with the material.

Radio frequency is often used to allow the safety gates to communicate with wireless radio frequencies on lift trucks. When the lift truck is ready to replenish the pallet drop area, the lift truck sends a signal to the safety gate to ensure the ledge side gate is raised. Ince the area has been replenished, another signal is sent to the safety gate telling it to close the ledge side gate so employees can access the material.

Sensors on safety gates can also be wired into a facility’s software system to integrate with processing computers in order to track materials and determine which areas must be replenished. These are just a few options and applications; each system can be tailored to the facility and company’s needs.

Be Observant
Sometimes, another eye on things is helpful. When you add power operation and other technologies to safety gates, it is important to utilize built-in safety features like photo eyes. This helpful technology can detect the presence of a person or object and prevent the gate from opening or closing. An adjustable clutch that engages if the gate makes contact with another object can also be included.

Remember, when added to any new or existing safety gate model, power operation and technology can save time and provide efficiencies while keeping employees safe. Commercial motors, wireless controls, sensors and software integration can make the operation of a safety gate seamless with automated operations. Choose wisely.

Best Fall Protection Solution for Your Facility

Elevated work platforms are found in almost every industrial facility — fall protection equipment is necessary in all facilities that feature any elevated workspace. OSHA’s fall protection codes require the equipment at 48 inches, and ANSI standards list 36 inches as the required height. Dual-gate safety systems are most often the best fall protection solution, but facilities are very diverse, and there are particular safety solutions that work best in each type of facility.

While most safety gate models are dependent on the application, certain designs lend themselves to a specific type of facility. We’ve put together a quick guide to selecting the right safety gate for each type of facility.

Production Facility:
Facilities like food processing or chemical plants often feature production platforms with tight quarters on elevated platforms. Overhead hoists are often used near the platforms to load super sacks to elevated areas so employees could mix the ingredients into the hoppers. The Open Top safety gate model is ideal for areas with overhead equipment because this design uses an interconnected dual-gate system without any overhead mechanics that ensures one gate is always protecting the employees from the ledge. This design allows the hoist to access the area from above while keeping the employee a safe distance from the ledge.

Tri-Side safety gate models are popular for areas loaded by a lift truck with limited depth due to the location of the hoppers. This design uses a cantilevered rear-side gate that lifts up and out of the way to allow access around the pallet in tight environments while always keeping the ledge secured. Our safety gate designs can be made in stainless steel if the facility environment is hostile or the gate is exposed to frequent rinsing.

Distribution Center:
These facilities often feature rack-supported pick modules. The original rack-supported dual-gate system, the Rack-Supported Roly gate, is often the best choice for fall protection in most of these configurations, as the gates never extend into the truck or picking aisle, and do not interfere with the truck loading the upper levels of multi-level picking systems. The gates open and close within the confines of the pallet drop area so the gate at the ledge opens and closes flush with the ledge and the rear gate is flush with the rear uprights of the system.

If the picking bays include pallet flow lanes in which multiple pallets deep are loaded, then you should install a version of the Rack-Supported Roly gate that is designed as deep as the flow lane. The additional depth ensures there is a gate in place at all times and prevents an employee from entering the aisle while the area is being loaded. This is especially important in a cluster-picking design where employees travel an aisle between the lanes to pick from multiple pallets at the same time.

Record Retention Centers:
Many storage facilities feature elevated work areas with limited headroom, and in these buildings, the Pivot safety gate is the best choice, as the design operates on only two pivot points and can fit into areas with limited space. In facilities with multi-level rack systems, the Rack Supported Pivot safety gate is the best choice, as it provides the most free space behind the pallet. With the pivoting framework, the rear gate extends back beyond the upright to secure the pallet, then moves out of the way when the ledge gate is closed, eliminating the need for a permanent structure to be located behind the upright.

Stand-Alone Facility:
Some facilities, like grocery and retail stores, feature elevated areas on which employees work. The most popular of these is a loading dock - often the busiest place in a facility, they pose a number of safety hazards.

For example, we worked with a supermarket chain to provide fall protection in their loading dock. On the lifts used in the dock, our Dock-Lift safety gate features gates that automatically open and close to provide fall protection while material is moved from the lift, truck and dock. On the loading dock, our Loading Dock Safety Gate is ideal as this design is single-gate system that allows the employee on the loading dock to raise and lock open when the tractor trailer is in place, and automatically close once the truck drives away from the area.

Large retail stores and museums can often feature elevated work platforms or mezzanines, and in most of these facilities, our Roly safety gate is often the best model to provide fall protection. The Roly safety gate is the most flexible in terms of size, and is the best model if the safety gate needs to be operated remotely from the lower level or a lift truck.

While the guide above outlines the most popular designs for each facility, your specific application may need a custom design. We are always happy to help you determine the right design for your application, and look forward to helping you choose the best safety gate for your facility.

Customizing Pivot Safety Gates

Pivot safety gates are one of our most popular designs. There is a good reason for that – with its simplistic design and few moving parts, it is often a good choice for fall protection and securing pallet drop areas on elevated work platforms. When we invented the design back in the early 1990s, it was to fit in a very specific environment - one with low available headroom in the record retention centers of Pierce Leahy Archives (the company was later purchased by Iron Mountain). The design, operating on only two pivot points, allowed the gates to fit in limited space while maintaining a safe environment.

At the time years ago, the Pivot model was primarily used to secure elevated areas with this type of limited headroom area while our original dual-gate system, the Roly® model, was used for standard configurations and other custom designs.

Over time, customers began requesting the Pivot model in standard areas because they liked the simplistic design. Then we started receiving requests for the Pivot model to fit some custom areas, including one request from Cardinal Health, which wanted to use the design but needed to accommodate taller pallet loads. So we customized the Pivot model to include additional pivot points that gate to clear taller pallets.

Another customer wanted to use the Pivot model in an area with limited depth - the custom requests continued. As we worked to engineer gates to fulfill the custom needs of our customers, we soon learned that the Pivot model could be engineered to fit many different environments. The safety gate could be engineered to accommodate very wide loads, multiple deep pallets, extra tall pallets, as well as to fit various space limitations.

The Pivot model’s popularity also grew because with few moving parts, it could be installed in and withstand hostile environments. In additional to powder-coated mild steel, we can make the unit entirely in stainless or galvanized, in square tubing or with structural steel.

Customizing safety gates to fit within your specific environment is our specialty. Pivot safety gates are one of our designs that really lends itself to customization. We never thought when we invented the Pivot model that it would be one of our more versatile gates, and we send a huge thank you to our customers who have always inspired us to create new solutions. If you have an area that needs fall protection, but find that a standard size really will not work, let us know and we can work to create something that works for your environment.