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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.

Fall Protection Equipment Priorities for New Facilities

New facilities can be exciting to set up as they are often outfitted with updated equipment, technology and the latest innovations. While you are planning the facility or starting to move in, employee safety must be considered in every area. In fact, safety equipment should be considered for each area and application, so employees will be safe from day one. The most up to date machine guarding, netting, mesh partitions or cages and safety gates all should be considered and made part of the plan for equipment in the new facility.

While there are many places that will need safety equipment, fall protection systems are needed for any elevated work platform; OSHA mandates fall protection systems at four feet, while ANSI standards suggest protection at three feet. Multiple elevated work platforms will likely be present in your facility, and even more if pick modules are used in material handing.

If you focus on fall protection, there are two key areas that must provide protection for employees: loading docks and dock-lifts used to move material, and any elevated ledges around pallet drop areas, including pick modules or pallet flow lanes.

Loading Docks and Dock Lifts
Let’s start outside the facility. Loading docks are often the busiest place in a facility, and they pose a number of safety hazards that put employees at risk for falls. The operation at a loading dock traditionally consists of a tractor trailer backing up to an elevated section of the building so material can be loaded/unloaded from the trailer. When the trailer is in place the elevated area remains safe, but once the trailer drives away there is an exposed ledge at the end of the elevated loading dock. Because this ledge is elevated it needs to be secured.



The best solution is a single-gate system that the employee on the loading dock is able to raise and lock open only when the tractor trailer is in place. Ideally, the gate automatically closes once the truck drives away from the area. This allows the operator to control when they want to open the gate, and makes sure the ledges remains secure when there is no truck in position without relying on someone to close the gate. 



Dock-lifts used to move material in the loading dock area also provide risks for falls when employees ride them with material. Dock-lifts can be used by employees to move material at ground level, between the trucks and loading docks. Safety gates for these lifts should feature automatically closing gates, which ensures fall protection for any worker on the lift. As the lift elevates, the gates automatically close and lock into place. The gates stay closed and locked until the lift goes back to ground level, providing fall protection while the lift is raised and material is moved from the lift, truck and dock. They can be made in multiple configurations, depending on the operations of your dock.

Elevated Pallet Drop Ledges
Moving inside, most material handling or production facilities feature multiple elevated pallet drop areas - they can be used for the same or different applications. These areas may be on mezzanines, near doorways or on production platforms.

OSHA fall protection standards mandate that a properly constructed barrier be in place except when employees are actively accessing material. ANSI standards mandate a fall protection barrier is in place at all times during the operation, even while pallets are being loaded, staged or worked on. The best method for providing fall protection on elevated pallet drop ledges is a dual-gate system that keeps one gate closed at all times. These safety systems include various designs; each has a gate at the ledge that is connected to a second gate behind the pallet and configured so when one gate is open the opposite gate is closed. Fixed stanchions on the side create a controlled-access area. These systems can be manually operated or with remotely controlled power for remote access by the lift truck operator or automated vehicle.

Often elevated work platforms and pallet drop areas are located in pick modules - the multi-level systems used for inventory and order fulfillment. By design, these systems place pallets of material on elevated levels, and employees picking product to fill orders. One of the main safety requirements is creating a fall protection barrier while employees on these elevated levels are picking items off of the pallets or stacking empty pallets to be removed. Dual-gate systems work very well in pick modules, especially when offered in a rack-supported design, which can save space by using the rack uprights to support the safety gate.



Pick modules often feature pallet flow applications. While employees are not to walk on the lanes, it happens. Employees do walk into lanes, which poses risk for falls from the upper levels and injuries if pallet loads being pushed into the legs of employees. To secure the flow lanes, self-closing gates designed for flow systems and dual-gate safety systems can create a safe environment. 



One additional point to remember about pallet drop safety is that new facilities are going to include the latest automation, and dual-gate safety systems can be equipped with power and sensors that make fall protection a part of the automated process.

If you have questions about safety equipment needs in your new facility, contact us - we can help.

Safety Equipment - 3 Keys to Getting the Most ROI

Whether you are working to spend the last bits of your budgeted funds for 2019 or planning for purchases in 2020, it’s that time of year we are finalizing our spending plans. And, when it’s budgeting time, ROI is always top of mind. What is the ROI of a safety gate?

A statistic from the National Safety Council highlights the ROI of safety investments: $1 invested in injury prevention, which includes fall protection, returns between $2 and $6. The NSC has also found that the average cost of workers’ compensation claims for a fall in the workplace is over $42,000.

The key word in that above stat is prevention. Being proactive in safety and equipping each workplace environment in a way to prevent falls and other accidents is always a smart decision, especially if you make an investment into the right equipment instead of using a quick fix. Here are three keys to getting the most ROI out of your safety investment.

Choose the Right Equipment
To maximize the return on your investment, it’s important that you choose the right safety equipment for the application. OSHA mandates that all elevated work platforms of 48 inches and higher be protected, and ANSI recommends guarding platforms at heights of 36 inches or more. Dual-gate systems are the best way to ensure compliance with ANSI and OSHA standards, and there are many models to choose from. Ensuring you have the right design for your specific application will help to increase the ROI of your investment. We’ve created a quick guide to help select the right model, and are always available to discuss specific needs.

Look for Added Efficiencies

Safety equipment like our dual-gate systems can also help make other processes more efficient; this can equate to added ROI for each safety gate. With technology, users can integrate the operation of the safety gate into their systems to track products to each pallet drop area. Safety gate power stations can be wired into a facility’s system so the computers can record when the safety gates were operated. The operational cycles of the safety gate can determine what products have been delivered and processed, and identify areas to be replenished, as well as the time to complete each task. There are a lot of options.

Ensure its Built to Last

Longevity is something to keep in mind when looking for a safety gate for your facility. What may appear to be the cheapest design may end up being the most expensive if the device is always left open or falls apart after a love-tap from the lift truck or bump from an AGV. Look for something well constructed, and talk to people who have installed the gates themselves.

Investments in safety can offer further often unmeasurable ROI as well. Safe facilities regularly equate with happy employees. Knowing there is proper safety equipment in the facility to keep them safe can boost morale of employees, and help to keep them on the job for many years. Visible safety equipment can also help on recruiting employees, especially when they are touring the facility. Retaining employees can be a big cost savings to Human Resources, which provides another lift to the ROI of the safety equipment.

The bottom line is that being proactive with safety is a good investment.

How to Choose the Right Safety Gate Design for Pick Modules

If your facility has pick modules that extend multiple levels, it’s likely there are variety of openings on the elevated levels for picking or for empty pallet/empty tote return bays. Just like the openings on a mezzanine or elevated platform, the areas on a pick module where there is access to the exposed ledge should be secured with dual-gate system. This ensures there is a barrier in place between the picker and the ledge while they are working the pallet, and while the bay is being replenished.
Another major source of fall-related incidents occurs where the empty pallets or empty totes are stacked so they can be removed by the lift truck. These areas should also be secured with a dual-gate system so a barrier is always there to provide fall protection.

There are several dual-gate safety designs available in a rack-supported configuration, but which one is right for you and your application?

Truck or Picking Aisle Must Stay Clear
The original rack-supported dual-gate system was the Rack-Supported Roly gate. This system uses gates that travel in a track system and connected with a chain and sprocket drive system. The gates travel up and down in the track and roll into the pallet drop area. The advantage of this system is that 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. Because the gates are flush with the uprights, no part of this safety gate will extend into the truck or picking aisle. The Rack Supported Roly safety gate is often the best solution in a multi-level system so the gates on the lower levels do not interfere with the truck loading the upper levels. Please note, however that a typical upright is only around 48” deep and there needs to be clearances around the 48” deep pallet, so the safety gate is typically designed around 56” deep. This means the rear frame of the safety gate must be permanently positioned behind the upright.

Tall Loads, Fewer Moving Parts
The Rack-Supported Pivot safety gate uses a pivoting framework that utilizes fewer moving parts to provide a safe environment. Because of this, the rear gate pivots back beyond the upright to secure the pallet, then moves out of the way when the ledge gate is closed. This eliminates the need for a permanent structure to be located behind the upright and provides for taller pallet loads. However, by design, this type of gate will extend out into the truck aisle and back into the picking aisle when the gate is operated. With this design, you want to make sure the moving gates will not interfere with the truck aisle, and that there is adequate clearance behind the pallet drop area. Note that the space required for this operation may be an issue if the takeaway conveyor is located right behind the pallet drop area.

Limited Depth on the Platform
If depth on the platform is limited due to the location of the conveyor or a narrow aisle, then your best safety gate solution may be the Rack-Supported Tri-Side gate. This safety system uses a gate that moves straight up and down at the ledge - never extending into the lift truck aisle, and a rear ‘u’-shaped gate that closes to capture the pallet then moves up and out of the way to provide egress behind the area.

All of these Rack Supported safety systems attach directly to the rack-uprights for a solid connection that doesn’t need to be lagged down. They can all be designed to fit the specific rack configuration (upright depth and beam length), and are constructed to match the punching in the rack for an easy, secure connection that doesn’t require any drilling into the rack components. They can be designed in multiple pallet widths or depths, and can accommodate pallet flow lanes. Manual operation is standard, but power operation can be added for remote operations from the lower levels or lift truck.

Four Points to Consider for Dock Lift Fall Protection



The loading dock is one of the most unsafe places in commercial facilities; it’s the location of 25 percent of all industrial accidents according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. In today’s age of high demand for fast and often same day delivery of goods, daily activity at the loading dock is often fast paced and constant - trucks make deliveries and pick ups while employees load and unload material.

One source of risk for employees in the loading dock is a dock lift, used to transfer pallets of material on the ground level. Employees often ride the lift from ground or dock level to align with the tailgate of the tractor trailer when they are moving material on and off of the truck. When the lift elevates, employees are at risk for falls if there is no protection provided on the lift.

While lifts have notoriously been used without fall protection systems in the past, it is imperative to protect employees working at heights in any situation. The main sources for safety equipment in loading docks have been the dock itself and equipment used to protect the physical structure and vehicles. However, because falls do happen from lifts, fall protection is needed to ensure employees are safe while performing their repetitive daily tasks on them.

When you consider the type of safety gate for your loading dock lifts, remember these four points.

  • Docks and material handling operations vary widely from facility to facility - even within the same parent company. Dock lifts come in various types and sizes based on location, traffic flow and the type of material being moved. Materials often come from separate distribution centers and individual suppliers, so most facilities have multiple applications that use lifts in dock operations. In the safety gate selection process, make sure you understand and communicate to the vendor the ways each lift is used in order to determine the right safety gate design for each lift.
  • Lifts are often located in unique environments, so ensure the each dock lift safety gate configuration is suited for each lifts application. The most popular Dock-Lift safety gate configuration features gates that move in a crossing-guard style pattern. As the lift elevates, the gates automatically close and lock into place. The gates stay closed and locked until the lift goes back to ground level, providing fall protection while the lift is raised and material is moved from the lift, truck and dock. However, it is not the best design for every application. For example, if an awning limits the height for any equipment on the lift, a safety gate in which the gates swung outward instead of upward, like in the crossing-guard style, may be a better design.
  • Lifts used on ground level within specific loading dock traffic patterns must accommodate the flow of the trucks moving around the area. Safety gates on lifts in these applications are best if equipped with gates that swing outward. The way that the gates move depends on the application; it could feature a single gate that covers the entire lift or use bi-parting gates that prevent the gate from obstructing the delivery area.

  • Ensure the safety gates are configured to automatically close; this further ensures fall protection for any worker on the lift as the job of closing the gate is not left to that person. Because of the nature of the tiring, repetitive work closing the gates can be forgotten, leaving the worker vulnerable to injury.

Let us know if you have a loading dock lift or environment that you need to secure; we’d love to help.