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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.

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.

OSHA Safe + Sound Week - 4 Areas to Review for Fall Protection

This week, August 12-18, 2019, is OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week, which is a week to recognize the importance of workplace health and safety programs. It’s a great week to take time to evaluate your employee safety programs and equipment and to make sure your employees know how to use the equipment properly.

Fall protection is an important piece of workplace safety - during your evaluation, take a look around and up to see if there are unprotected fall hazards in your material handling facility. There are four areas where falls often take place, and if you don’t have safety equipment in place, your employees could be at risk.

  1. Elevated Pallet Drop Ledges
    OSHA and ANSI fall protection standards mandate that a barrier be in place at all times during the operation, even while pallets are being loaded, staged or worked on. This includes areas within pick modules. The best method for meeting this safety requirement is a dual-gate system that is configured so when one gate is open the opposite gate is closed. Dual-gate systems come in many different designs; some are designed for specific applications, so make sure to determine which design will work best for your environment.
  2. Pallet Flow Lanes
    In pallet flow applications, without safety gates, employees are at risk from falling from the upper levels as well as pallet loads being pushed into the legs of employees when they are working in the lane. If designed correctly, a dual-gate safety system can create a safe environment; this design uses a gate at the ledge and a second gate at the end of the lane where the picker is standing. The gates are interconnected and counterbalanced so when one gate is open, the opposite gate is closed. Operationally, the ledge is open when the lift truck loads pallets into the lanes, which means the rear-side gate is closed, preventing employees from accessing the lane and keeping them a safe distance from the ledge. Pickers then can manually raise the rear gate, which closes the ledge gate, securing the ledge while they pick from the pallets, as well as preventing the lift truck from loading more pallets while they are in that area.
  3. Loading Docks
    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, which can expose employees to a risk for falls. 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, and automatically closes once the truck drives away from the area. This allows the operator to control when they want to open the gate, but makes sure the ledges remains secure when there is no truck in position.
  4. Dock-Lifts
    Dock-lifts also provide risks for falls when employees ride them with material. Safety gates for lifts should feature automatically closing gates, which ensures fall protection for any worker on the lift. As the lift elevates, the gates should 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.

Those are just four main areas in which you may have fall hazards - there may be more, and it will depend on the type and size of your facility. Take time out of your week to review your safety equipment and procedures to ensure your employees are safe when working on elevated levels. If you have questions about the best safety gate designs for your needs, we’re always happy to help.

June 11 is National Forklift Safety Day

Today looks at an important issue - safety in operations using forklift trucks - which has always been paramount in industrial facilities. Systems are growing more complex, and the safety and guarding solutions are more innovative than ever before. Yes, there are fewer workers driving forklift trucks due to increased automation in industrial facilities, but employees continue to work in the facility and their safety must still be one of the top priorities. The potential for serious injury still exists, especially with unmanned forklifts, and the ramifications for not creating a secure environment are severe; the potential loss of income, the facility being forced to shut down, or reputation of being an unsafe workplace are too serious of an issue. Proactive safety is a must.

Protect Employees
Inside the facility, any elevated structure must be properly guarded. OSHA and ANSI standards mandate that a barrier be in place at all times during the operation, even while pallets are being loaded, staged or worked on. This includes any elevated platforms or mezzanines in which any forklifts used to move material to and from a pallet drop area. Guardrail to secure the perimeter is often designed into the structure, but the pallet drop areas within the structure are a major hazard and must be properly secured.

A dual-gate system should be installed to ensure a barrier is in place at all times – even while the pallet is being loaded or unloaded by the forklift. Dual gate systems can be configured in many different 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 powered for remote access by the forklift truck operator or unmanned vehicles.

A properly designed dual-gate system will not depend on the operator to ensure the barrier is in place at times and will ensure code compliance, and can be designed to fit your specific space limitations and workflow. And don’t forget, even if you are using automated forklift trucks to load these areas, employees are often still on the upper levels, moving or picking the pallets, and the areas should be guarded with a dual-gate system.

The original dual-gate system, the Roly® Safety Gate, is often the best choice for fall protection in most applications, as the gates never extend into the lift truck or picking aisle, and if in a pick module, does not interfere with the forklift truck loading the upper levels. 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. Tri-Side safety gate models are also popular for areas loaded by a forklift truck with limited depth. This design uses a cantilevered rear-side gate that lifts up and out of the way to allow access around the pallet in tight environments while always keeping the ledge secured.

Protect Structures
Safety gates must be rugged to withstand the potential impact that a forklift truck can have on them while loading or unloading material. Every one of our safety gate models is constructed from square tubular steel - either powder-coated mild or electro-polished stainless. The rugged steel construction ensures that the safety gate can be used in any environment and can hold up through daily use even when encountering the a forklift truck. Additionally, we provide impact plates on posts to minimize the damage the impact of a lift truck while it’s loading or unloading pallets to that area.

Remember that these safety precautions in forklift truck operations should be practiced every day, not just on June 11. If you have questions on how to secure pallet drop areas that use forklift trucks, contact us - we’re happy to help.

Chemical Production Facility Improves Plant Safety

A worldwide chemical company audits each of its production sites every few years. As part of the audits, a survey of safety and operations is conducted. In the spring of 2017, one of the facilities was audited, and the plant production manager learned that the company was mandating safety gates to replace the access gates on upper level decking to improve safety.

The company’s production buildings have mezzanines approximately 13 feet above ground level. All of the mezzanines had access gates that were either hinged or slide in and out of place to allow raw material, maintenance equipment and tools to be passed to and from ground level. The gates were constantly being opened and closed, but did not offer a safe scenario for employees on the mezzanine level.

The plant created a three-person team to determine the best safety gates for the facility. Each team member did independent research, and unanimously selected MHI member Mezzanine Safeti-Gates due to the variety of the designs offered and the quality of the product.

A representative from Mezzanine Safeti-Gates visited the facility, and worked with the plant to identify 35 areas that needed safety gates within the facility. Its team was tasked with securing each area with dual-gate safety systems to ensure a barrier is in place at all times, even while pallets are in the process of being loaded, unloaded and staged. These dual-gate systems would replace the access gates being used throughout the facility.

Because each area in the facility had its own unique process and space limitations, specific fall protection solutions were designed for each area.

The facility featured a number of areas in which overhead hoists that loaded super sacks to elevated areas so employees could mix the ingredients into the hoppers. The Open Top safety gate model was the fall protection solution for areas using hoists because this design uses an interconnected dual-gate system without any overhead mechanics that ensures one gate is always protecting the employees from the mezzanine ledge. The hoist accesses the area from above while keeping the employee a safe distance from the ledge. A few of the areas using an overhead hoist required side access to the material, so the Open Top model was designed in a ninety-degree configuration.

The Tri-Side model was used to secure other pallet drop areas in the facility that were loaded by a lift truck, but had limited depth due to the location of the hoppers. This model uses a cantilevered rear-side gate that lifts up and out of the way to allow access around the pallet in tight environments while always keeping the ledge secured.

In other locations, the depth of the safety gates had to be able to accommodate a small two-man scissor lift. In these areas, longer side rails for the Tri-Side gates were supplied to fit the depth requirements while keeping employees safe from the exposed ledge.

Additional pallet drop areas needed to be secured, and those had limited height with tall pallet loads. A custom designed version of the Pivot safety gate was created by adjusting the pivot point locations to fit the space constraints and accommodate the pallet sizes.

After the installation of the safety gates, the employees in the facility are very happy with the ease of use of the gates and the safety they provided.