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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.

How to Choose the Right Safety Gate Design for Pick Modules

If your facility has pick modules that extend multiple levels, it’s likely there are variety of openings on the elevated levels for picking or for empty pallet/empty tote return bays. Just like the openings on a mezzanine or elevated platform, the areas on a pick module where there is access to the exposed ledge should be secured with dual-gate system. This ensures there is a barrier in place between the picker and the ledge while they are working the pallet, and while the bay is being replenished.

Another major source of fall-related incidents occurs where the empty pallets or empty totes are stacked so they can be removed by the lift truck. These areas should also be secured with a dual-gate system so a barrier is always there to provide fall protection.

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

Truck or Picking Aisle Must Stay Clear
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. Because the gates are flush with the uprights, no part of this safety gate will 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.

Tall Loads, Fewer Moving Parts
The Rack-Supported Pivot safety gate uses a pivoting framework that utilizes fewer moving parts 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 and provides for taller pallet loads. 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.

Limited Depth on the Platform
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.

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.

National Forklift Safety Day

National Forklift Safety Day looks at an important issue - safety in operations using forklift trucks - which has always been paramount in material handling and manufacturing 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 on elevated 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 in the pallet drop area 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 pallet drop safety gate 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 forklift 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 palletized 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 the designated day in June. If you have questions on how to secure pallet drop areas that use forklift trucks, contact us - we’re happy to help.