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pallet drop safety gate in High Pallet Pivot design with custom mesh panels

Three Signs You Need a Custom-Engineered Safety Solution

Just like snowflakes, material handling facilities are all unique. There is so much change happening in the industry; automation is booming, and new types of equipment are being created to accommodate the increased demand for speed and storage. Given the changes, material handling equipment manufactures need to be flexible and create solutions that will fit into these new systems and applications.

While in most cases standard size protective guarding will work within the changed environments, others require custom engineered solutions. These solutions must be tested to ensure they meet industry standards and comply with OSHA regulations, which may include numerous requirements. Ergonomics is also a factor when creating custom material handling equipment, especially when the equipment is heavy or large in size.

Determining whether a custom designed solution is needed can often be very apparent, especially when dealing with material of great size. However, other times it may look like standard size guarding is a fit, but when the workflow starts going, it becomes clear that a different solution is needed. Below are three signs that you may need a custom-engineered safety solution. Note that the examples will be centered around pallet drop safety gates, but the signals apply to a wide range of protective guarding solutions.

Real Estate Squeeze
Space is a precious commodity in material handling facilities. Depending on the application, there must be enough space for employees, material and equipment. Barriers to keep all three safe and oftentimes away from each other, have to be included within the spaces. When space is compromised or extends beyond a double-wide pallet drop area for instance, custom engineered solutions are often the answer.

For example, we worked with a company to secure pallet drop areas in a new pick module and rack system. The bays were 156 feet wide to accommodate three pallet positions, and space in the bay was tight, so the gates had to take up minimal space while providing fall protection. To accommodate the material in the three pallets positions in the bays, we created a custom designed High Pallet Pivot safety gate which normally can handle pallet loads up to 80 inches tall while using a minimum amount of space on the platform. The gates were constructed wide enough for the pallet positions while maintaining a safe environment for the workers in the bay at all times. Although the safety gates were made 13 feet wide and out of heavy square steel tubing, we ensured ergonomic, effortless operation by including our hydraulic gas assist mechanism.

Robots on the Move
While there are still way more people in the facility, the investment into this technology is great, and companies want to make sure their investment and equipment is protected as well. If robots get damaged, not only is it monetarily expensive, it can shut down the complete system for hours or days, and if they fall from an upper level, employees and machines below are at risk for damage too.

We are seeing more and more facilities using lifts and conveyor systems in their applications, especially with robots moving from the floor level, up into the system. To prevent robots from falling from these empty shafts, we created custom safety gates that automatically open and close with the lift to ensure the robots are contained without relying on an employee to secure the area.

Material Mishaps
How is the material packaged when it’s placed in the pallet drop area? Is it all wrapped and contained, or is it smaller boxes and loose material? Material in pallet drop areas can face many hazards while it’s waiting to be picked and moved. Fork lift trucks and pallet jacks can jostle pallets or pierce packaging around the material, leaving it exposed on the ledge. Material can fall from the drop zones, crashing to the lower level; the material, as well as employees and machinery below are left exposed to damage from the falls.

We’ve recently helped customers secure the ledge-side of a Pivot safety gate with metal mesh guarding to keep material contained in the pallet drop area within a pick module. Another customer wanted to ensure its material, which was of smaller nature, did not leave the busy pallet drop area while it was being moved. For this instance we created a custom Total Control Access (TCA) safety gate that included full netting on all four sides of the safety gate, creating a fully enclosed, power-operated safety gate cage.

While the above scenarios are common signs that you need custom-engineered solutions, there are many additional unique situations in which they may be necessary. If you have doubts about a standard size working, reach out to your provider to discuss any concerns about the application. They can provide valuable guidance and the right solution for your facility.


This article first appeared in the December 2023 issue of Workplace Material Handling Solutions