Summertime…if you follow song lyrics, you know that living is supposed to be easy, but if you work outside or in a bustling material handling facility, it may not be the case. Summer brings elevated temperatures, humidity and vacations, all of which can affect worker performance in any industrial facility, but those working on and around elevated platforms and loading docks can be greatly impacted.
We all know summer feels more loose than other seasons - it’s likely that childhood summer break feeling that we have ingrained into our thoughts. However, that summer feeling should never be applied to safety, especially in material handling applications that feature elevated platforms. Protecting workers at all times - even in the easy months of summer - is a mandate.
While summer doesn’t mean you have to change all of your safety procedures, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Hot temperatures and increased humidity can make employees working in operations - especially those outdoors in the dock - tired. When they are tired, they often work more slowly and attention gets focused on how they feel rather than what they are doing. In these conditions, fall protection is of utmost importance. Make sure that employees are using all of the safety equipment correctly, especially when they are working in pallet drop applications on elevated platforms or handling in loading dock operations.
On elevated pallet drop areas, platforms and mezzanines - anywhere an employee works that is elevated inside the facility, dual-gate systems are the right solution. These safety systems use two counterbalanced gates so that when the ledge side gate is down, it provides fall protection for the entire workstation. Employees don’t have to remember to move any equipment back into place when they start picking from the pallet - key when they become overheated.
Safety equipment with automated operations, like our Dock-Lift and Loading Dock gate models, provide automatic fall protection; they don’t rely on tired employees to remember to close the gates. In our Dock Lift design, the gates automatically close as the lift begins to rise, and do not open until they reach the dock or ground level. In our Dock Gate design, the gate automatically closes as the truck drives away. Both provide fall protection without relying on workers to remember to close the gates - key to safety in any season.
In addition to temperature extremes, summer brings many vacations - if there are too many employees with time off, temporary workers can be brought in to meet product demand. In addition, if employees have trouble with child care, they may have to bring their child to work - often these “helpers” can be a distraction for all involved in operations.
New employees must understand all safety procedures and know how to run the equipment properly. Take 15-30 minutes each morning to evaluate any new employees - or those that may have “helpers” to determine what training is needed if any, to ensure a safe work environment.
By taking a little time to ensure your operations are safe and that all employees know how to use fall protection equipment, your summer living may be easy after all.
In today’s facilities, it’s very common to find material handling applications that use overhead equipment like cranes, vacuums or hoists to move material in and out of elevated pallet drop areas. Because employees usually work around these pallet drop areas, it is mandated that these areas provide fall protection.
However, overhead handling equipment can impact the type of fall protection and safety equipment used in the application. It’s important to answer three questions as you seek out the best safety solution — often it’s a dual-gate system, which is mandated by ANSI.
What is the application?
We’ve seen a variety of applications that use overhead equipment. Some applications use the overhead equipment to both load and unload material, with employees picking from the loads while they are in the pallet drop area. Other applications are near hoppers or mixers, with the overhead equipment used to drop off a super sack so employees can open and dump the ingredients into the mixer.
If the application is chemical or food-based, you may need to ensure any fall protection equipment is constructed of stainless steel. This is also the case if the environment in which the equipment is located will be subject to frequent rinsing or extreme temperatures.
How/where do employees interact with the overhead machinery and material?
Given the nature of overhead handling, any safety equipment must allow for the crane, hoist or vacuum to have room to drop the material in the proper space. This means overhead space must be clear. In addition, any swinging motions by the overhead equipment must be taken into consideration so the safety gates can be sure to clear that motion.
Take worker movements into account. How far from the ledge do your employees work? Do they pick from one side of the pallet, or are they moving the heaving material from the drop area to another spot? If side access is necessary, safety gates can be made to allow access on both sides from a ninety degree angle.
How much space is there on the platform with material?
This is an important factor in selecting safety equipment. The space for the pallet drop area and for employees to work with the material is important, as you don’t want the safety barriers impeding productivity.
Measure the space, and be sure to note any special details about the application before you reach out to your safety equipment provider. Safety gates can be customized for width and depth.
Once you’ve answered those three questions, you are ready to move ahead with the purchase of safety equipment. Make sure the safety equipment provides fall protection at all times. Chains that “protect” employees from an elevated ledge can be left open and also provide another safety hazard - the potential for tripping over the chain when it’s closed.
Our Open Top safety gate is ideal for applications with overhead equipment, as the dual-gates are connected on a side so there are no overhead mechanics. This dual-gate design features ergonomically counterbalanced gates with a hydraulic gas assist mechanism that make for easy operation. When the ledge gate opens to the side, the rear gate closes, preventing employees from falls off the platform. The gates are connected with solid torque shaft and hardened gears, which are housed in a metal enclosure to protect the components and to keep people’s hands away from the moving parts.
Overhead vacuums or chain hoists can then access the pallet drop area and can pass through overhead. When the ledge gate is closed, it creates a fall protection barrier at the ledge, and the rear gate opens to the side, allowing employees to safely access the material. In addition to accommodating overhead obstructions, the Open Top is also a good solution if tall pallets are being loaded into the pallet drop area.