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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.

Tri-Side Safety Gate: The History

Many of our safety gate models start out as custom designs for customers; the Tri-Side safety gate is another great example. We invented the Tri-Side model for a large drug store chain. We had worked with the drug store chain over many years, and had installed hundreds of safety gates in their facilities across the country. The drug store chain primarily used our Rack-Supported Roly safety gates to provide fall protection in its pick modules, and also installed some free-standing versions of the Roly safety gate on their mezzanines. 

When the customer built a new distribution center, they reached out to us to provide fall protection, noting that they had a few areas in which the pallet drop area was in a walkway. Space was an issue in these areas; fall protection was needed, but there was not enough space for a Roly safety gate model. To provide fall protection in this area, our engineers went to work to design a custom safety gate that had the benefits of the dual-gate system, but took up less space on the mezzanine.

The Tri-Side safety gate was created for this job. The Tri-Side model has a U-shaped rear gate, which when lifted up allows access to the workstation while the ledge gate closes to the deck, creating a secure work environment. The model has fixed stanchions only 14 inches deep, creating a controlled-access area while taking up a minimum amount of space on the work platform. Pallets can be accessed from either side, and be removed straight back into an area or to either ninety degree side. The drug store chain installed Tri-Side safety gates in the work areas with the pallet drop areas in the walkways. 

Since the creation of the custom Tri-Side design, many other customers have voiced the same concern and space limitations. Given the need for and popularity of the model, we added the Tri-Side design to our standard product line over 10 years ago. We can fabricate them in stainless or mild steel. The safety gates can also be power operated, and can be made in custom widths, depths and heights.

The Tri-Side safety gate model has also been installed in a number of customer facilities with pick modules as a rack supported design. In these pick module applications, the existing pallet rack is used for support; this is a great design for pallet drop areas located on the sides of the module.

It’s also available in a compact design making it ideal to provide fall protection in doorways, especially when they integrate with overhead climate or fire doors. Production platforms in which employees are opening ingredient bags and dumping them into a hopper, are also a perfect spot for the Tri-Side model. The most unique application in which the Tri-Side safety gates have been used are on scissor-lift tables to secure the areas as lifts are raised and lowered.

We’re always happy to work with customers to create a fall protection solution that works for their specific application. Whether you need a standard design or don’t really know where to start, we’re at your service.

 

5 Responses When Management Says No to Safety

Ensuring safety for all employees is one of the most important tasks for any facility manager. Many facility managers pride themselves on having zero accidents or incidents and take regular steps to make sure all workers are safe. A zero incident record often means that safety equipment is in place and being used properly.

However, as applications and facilities change, there is often a need to procure additional safety equipment. Many times upper management is much more focused on ensuring operations are as efficient as possible and profits are as high as they can be. Safety devices can often carry high costs, and it is not always easy to make the case for the equipment needed to ensure safety at all times.

We’ve heard many ways that executives have pushed back on safety managers about their spending, and have put together five responses that can help to sell your executive team on the purchase of the right safety equipment for your facility.

We don't need it - the work platform is not very high.
While three feet doesn’t seem high, a fall from that level can produce a sprain, break or some other injury. ANSI standards mandate that fall protection should be in place for all workers that work at heights of three feet or greater - OSHA takes it a foot higher to four feet. But, all it takes is one incident, which can lead to lost work days for employees and costs for the company. Even without an incident, fines from OSHA may be implemented for improper safety equipment. Fall protection equipment also provides employees working on elevated platforms confidence and ease of mind, so they can focus on doing their job.

We have a chain or other movable barrier; it’s working fine.
This thought process is very high risk - barriers like chains or movable guarding are often never moved into place, leaving employees working at exposed elevated ledges. These “safety devices” also do not meet code, and don’t provide the level of safety needed for employees working at height. ANSI fall protection guidelines mandate a barrier is in place at all times, even while pallets are staged, being picked or in the process of being delivered or removed. The best solution to meet these needs is a dual-gate system, which provides protection from elevated ledges and keeps employees from pallet drop areas when they are in use without having to move full systems into and out of place.

The safety equipment is too expensive.
While the initial cost of safety equipment can be high, depending on the complexity of the facility and the number of areas that need to be secured, the cost of not having the safety equipment in place is much greater. If there is an incident, costs can add up - OSHA fines, potential for the facility to be shut down for a period of time can be daunting. Additional costs for legal teams and even to rebuild the corporate reputation after incident can also accrue. These potential costs outweigh any cost for safety equipment.

The safety equipment will impede production.
As long as you choose the right safety equipment for your specific application, productivity should stay intact, and may even improve. For example, dual-gate safety systems like the ones we offer can include power operation, wireless controls and sensors, and even can be integrated with software. It’s pretty easy to debunk this one, and if you need more evidence, we can provide many case studies on productivity.

We’ve never had an incident using what is in place now.
Congratulations, you’ve been relying on luck in the past and it’s worked. What happens when the luck runs out? This too is a high risk strategy, and luck is just not something to rely on when it comes to employee safety.

Have you heard another excuse for not purchasing the safety equipment you need to get to zero incident status? We’re happy to help you find the right response and equipment - just reach out.

 

The Evolution of Pivot Safety Gate

The second dual-gate safety system we invented was the Pivot safety gate. The Pivot model was originally a custom designed safety gate for Pierce Leahy Archives, which was later purchased by Iron Mountain, and is a great solution for providing fall protection for multiple pallet drop areas. We engineered a simple design for the Pivot safety gate to limit the moving parts; the gate operates on just two pivot points. The design makes the Pivot model a good choice for many applications, including food processing plants where the entire design can be fabricated out of stainless steel.

Pierce Leahy required a safety solution in areas with limited available height and multiple levels of platforms used for record retention. The original Pivot model we created for this job consisted of a gate at the ledge and second gate behind the pallet, which used a pivoting framework that was manually operated to maintain a safe environment at all times while pallets are loaded into the area.

While traditionally offered in a few standard sizes, single wide and double wide, the basic Pivot safety gate design didn’t lend itself to much customization, so it was a good choice for operations with standard size pallet loads. The ability to fit this model in a low overhead space had the disadvantage of not accommodating a tall of a pallet load. However, we changed this for Cardinal Health who liked the simplicity of the Pivot safety gate but wanted to load taller pallets into the area.

To meet the needs of Cardinal Health, we added additional pivot points to the design to allow the gates to clear taller pallet load. This design became known as the High Pallet Pivot Model, which uses a total of 14 pivot points to clear taller pallets and to reduce the amount of space it takes up on the platform. A traditional Pivot gate can take up a lot of depth on a platform because the rear gate needs room to pivot back into the area when the gate is operated. This can be a problem on smaller mezzanines, but by adding pivot points, we were able to reduce the swing depth so the gate can clear the same size pallet in a smaller footprint. This is important because space is always significant – that’s why the mezzanine was built in the first place!

The High Pallet Pivot safety gate design with the multiple pivot points opened up endless possibilities for customization. By positioning the pivot points in strategic positions, we can modify the height and depth to accommodate odd-size pallet loads, fit in areas with limited heights, and work around obstructions on the platform. In food and chemical manufacturing plants, it’s very common to have reactors or hoppers positioned behind the pallet drop area, so it is important to be able to modify the depth of the pivot gate to work around this equipment.

The next evolution in the Pivot design was the introduction of a Rack Supported model, which was designed to meet the fall protection needs in the increasingly popular multi-level pick modules. These safety systems attach to the existing pallet rack to maximize space in the bay, and eliminate parts of the structure that could get hit and damaged by the lift truck. In addition, by attaching to the rack uprights, the safety gate doesn’t need to get lagged into the decking, which can vary in design and strength from project to project.

The Rack-Supported Pivot gate allowed picking positions and empty pallet and tote return bays to be permanently secured. This fall protection system is designed to attach to any style of pallet rack and can be configured to fit the specific bays and the products being loaded. The location of the pivot points can be modified so the gate doesn’t swing too far back into the picking aisle, so it can work around the takeaway conveyors or the narrow aisles.

The Pivot safety gate model has gone from being a simple concept and design for standard applications to something that can be customized and configured to fit various scenarios. What’s next for the Pivot model? Stay tuned.

Securing Rack Supported Pick Modules: Chose the Right Solution

Okay, so you understand that OSHA mandates that pallet drop areas above 48” off the ground need to be secured, that the new ANSI standards for fall protection require a barrier to be in place at all times for pallet drop areas 36" off the ground and that the best way to achieve this is with a counterbalanced dual-gate system. If you know all this and understand that the same hazard and solution apply to rack-supported pick modules, then congratulations, you are well informed.

But, do you also know that there are specialized gate systems designed specifically for picking areas and empty pallet/empty tote return lanes in pick modules? If so, give yourself a pat on the back. How many of these systems are you familiar with, and do you know the difference between them?

Dual-gate systems secure pallet drop areas by using a gate at the ledge with a second gate behind the pallet, and these two gates are counterbalanced and interconnected so one gate is always closed, separating the operator from the ledge. Versions of dual-gate systems are designed specifically for pallet drop areas in rack systems, utilizing the existing pallet rack into the frame of the design. By attaching to the existing rack uprights, the gate system doesn’t use support frames that need to be bolted into the decking, and take up valuable space in the rack bay where it can be damaged by lift truck abuse.

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

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. The gates never 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.

The Rack-Supported Pivot safety gate uses a pivoting framework 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. 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.

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.

Don’t forget to look at your pick modules when reviewing the safety in your facility, and know that there are guarding solutions specifically created to integrate with these systems. Give us a call and we’ll let you know which design works best for your application. If we get lucky, then none of our gates will fit your unique area, and if so we’ll design one that does.