Facility Safety: When a Doorway Isn't a Doorway
On the upper levels of enclosed elevated platforms you will often notice a set of doors that appear to be a doorway to another area of the mezzanine. However, if you were to open these doors you would discover that they do not lead to a room or a hallway, but instead lead to open space and the ground level below.
This is an instance when a doorway isn’t a doorway, but they are pallet drop areas where a lift truck would load material up to these upper levels. Many times, swinging doors are put in place to enclose the mezzanine for climate or air control, and because there is a door in place, it’s considered safe.
This type of door poses many risks. By design the doors swing inward; the staged pallet will hold them open and prevent anyone from closing them, so they remain open the entire time a pallet is staged. The doors are dependent on someone to remember and make an effort to close them, and as a result are often left open. Doors also can severely create a false impression, tricking people as to their function; what is perceived as a doorway to another area is actually a step into space, and could be the last step someone may ever take.
Sure, people who work in the facility all day, every day may know not to walk through the doorway, but what about visitors or someone new to the location? What happens in a panic situation, in a case of emergency? Say there is a fire, and smoke and alarms sounding, and people are moving quickly for the exits; in the confusion and chaos, someone opens that doorway and steps through.If you have this kind of swinging doors in your pallet drop areas, remove them now.
To ensure a safe working environment, one system should be installed for safety and another should be installed if the area requires climate or noise control. A dual-gate safety system designed to secure pallet drop areas should be installed to secure the area for fall protection. A garage door, preferably one that rolls up into a can, should be installed in front of the safety gate if climate or noise control is required.
Install these two systems at the same so they will function well together. If possible install the can to the roll-up door on the outside of the way to free up available space for the safety gate. Install a safety gate that opens and closes flush behind the doorway, like the Roly model, instead of one that needs to “pivot” or arc through the doorway like a Pivot Gate.
Make sure that the systems do not interfere with the other. For example, you may want to make the safety gate wider than the doorway so the gate structure is located behind the wall of the enclosed mezzanine to protect the safety gate from lift truck impact and to maximize the available width. The door and the safety gate can be power operated if required and can be wired to operate simultaneously.
Some doorways will have a platform extension that expands into the open area above the ground level. Determine if the lift trucks can push the pallet far enough past this extension so the door and the gate of the safety gate can close. If not, then you may need a custom designed safety gate that will secure the ledge at the end of the extension.
Our recently designed Compact Tri-Side safety gate uses a ledge-side gate that extends out through the doorway to secure the ledge at the platform extension when the ledge-side gate is closed, and then compacts back into the mezzanine area when the rear-side gate is closed. This allows the gate to secure the ledge of the platform extension while also allowing the gate to compact out of the way so the overhead door can close.
As always, consult a company that specializes in safety for pallet drop areas to review your area to determine the best solutions.