Thirty-five years in any industry is a long time…we’re celebrating that milestone this year. Mezzanine Safeti-Gates was created 35 years ago by James Conway, and the family business has focused on providing safety gate systems for industrial facilities ever since.
Back then, facilities looked much different - there were not as many levels or intricate picking modules, and manufacturing machinery was very different. Safety was not really top of mind; chains were the most popular way to secure an area for falls, and were often left open and didn’t do a whole lot outside of providing a tripping hazard when they were closed.
In addition, OSHA regulations were not as strict as they are today, and ANSI standards were not even created 35 years ago. These regulations and standards ensure companies take a proactive approach to safety, and today’s professionals are very well-informed about safety, often integrating it into company culture. Industry groups like MHI’s ProGMA and trade shows like ProMAT have also helped to educate the industry about the importance of fall protection.
We can thank Eastman Kodak for starting our focus on safety gates and fall protection. Jim was visiting their facility and noticed a need for fall protection. With a unique background and degrees in engineering, law and business, Jim worked to design the first dual-gate safety system, the Roly® safety gate model for Eastman Kodak’s facility. The safety gate’s design used two counterbalanced gates to secure openings on the mezzanine in the facility. When the ledge gate is down, the rear-side gate is up, providing a barrier at the ledge to prevent employees from falling and allowing access to the material. When the ledge gate is up, the rear-side gate is down, allowing the area to be replenished with material while preventing employees from accessing the area.
After the Roly model was created, we continued to see a need for additional safety gate designs, depending on the application and facility. The Pivot safety gate came next, and was a custom design for Pierce Leahy Archives, which was later purchased by Iron Mountain. There was very limited height where records were being stored, so we engineered the Pivot safety gate to limit the moving parts; the gate operates on just two pivot points, which made it ideal for the areas with low headroom. 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.
We invented the Tri-Side model for Walgreen’s. We had worked with the company in the past, installing hundreds of Rack Supported Roly safety gates to secure bays in pick modules in their facilities across the country — that rack supported design was also a first and now a part of our standard product line. When they built a new distribution center, it was noted that they had a few areas in which the pallet drop area was in a walkway and space was an issue. We created the Tri-Side model to take up minimum space on the walkway, and allow side access to the pallet.
Our engineering has continued over the years, and we’ve created many designs that are now standard in our product line. This year we have looked closely at fall protection in docks and on dock-lifts, and created new safety gate designs that protect workers in those operations. In addition, we’ve consistently worked to improve our designs, ensuring they stand up to the rigors of the industry.
Ergonomics has always been a focus of our company, as we know safety gates have to be easy to use to work properly. As technology has improved, we’ve implemented that into our safety gate designs; our gates include kick plates, and we offer a host of accessories, from wire mesh panels to power operation to adding sensors to work with automated vehicles.
Our custom engineering department has also created many unique designs for challenging applications…it continues to be our specialty. We look forward to more years of creating fall protection solutions for industrial applications and keeping your employees safe.
A building boom has swept the country over the last year; many companies are purchasing or building new facilities for distribution and manufacturing. New facilities come with a clean slate in terms of designing the perfect systems for your company’s applications. It also means a slew of new equipment will be getting set up in your facility.
When it comes to safety, starting fresh with a new facility is the best option. Safety can be built right into each system where it is needed, so employees will be safe from day one. Machine guarding, netting and safety gates all should be considered and made part of the plan for equipment.
While there are many places that will need safety equipment, according to ANSI standards, fall protection systems will be needed for any elevated work platform over 36 inches. Expect that multiple elevated work platforms will be featured in your new facility, and here are three areas that need fall protection systems installed before operations start.
Elevated Pallet Drop Ledges
Take a look around at all of the pallet drop areas in the new facility. 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. The best method for meeting this safety requirement is a dual-gate system that always keeps one gate closed. There are many different models and designs of these systems; 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 are typically manually operated but can be powered for remote access by the lift truck operator.
Pick modules are multiple level systems used to store inventory and to pick items for order fulfillment. By design, these systems place pallets and people on elevated levels. One of the main safety requirements is creating a fall protection barrier while employees on these elevated levels are picking items off of the pallets or stacking empty pallets to be removed. Like elevated work platforms or mezzanines, rack supported pick modules need fall protection systems. Dual-gate systems work very well in pick modules, and often can be in a rack-supported design.
Pallet Flow Lanes
The two main injuries we hear about in pallet flow applications are people falling from the upper levels and 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 – at times. 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.
Docks and Dock Lifts
Dock operations are often the busiest place in a facility, and they pose a number of safety hazards. 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. 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.
Dock-lifts also provide risks for falls when employees ride them with material. Safety gates for these lifts should feature automatically closing gates, which ensures fall protection for any worker on the lift. 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. They can be made in multiple configurations, depending on the operations of your dock.