Fall Protection or Machine Guarding?
True or false: pallet drop safety gates in industrial facilities are only used for fall protection.
The answer is false; while safety gates are traditionally used for fall protection in industrial facilities, we have come into a number of situations in which our mezzanine safety gate models were required for other safety purposes, including machine guarding. While not a typical application, our safety gates have been used as guarding in some unique settings.
The majority of our fall protection gates use dual interconnected gates to maintain a safe environment at all times. While able to create a barrier that could be used to separate workers from certain areas or expensive/dangerous machines, often the two gates would interfere with productivity and would restrict access to the machinery. Sometimes, however, using a dual-gate system to guard machines has an advantage such as one we did for customer facility.
One of our manufacturing customers had an application in which heavy bags were moved down a conveyor to an area in which employees stacked the bags onto a pallet on a different conveyor. Once the pallet is full, it’s sent down the conveyor. Safety engineers were concerned that the heavy pallets could hurt the operators when it was moved, perhaps crushing someone’s hands as the pallet traveled on the conveyor, so they looked to find a safety solution.
Traditional machine guarding that would be permanently installed around the area would keep the operators away from the moving pallet, but would prevent them from accessing and loading the pallet, so an alternative solution needed to be found. The company reached out to us because they had worked with us in the past securing their pallet drop areas on elevated platforms and knew of our custom engineering and design skills.
Our engineers reviewed the area in the facility and worked with the customer to understand the process and the inherent dangers. Working with the facility’s safety and operational personnel, we determined that the safety right solution for their application was actually a dual-gate system, similar to what they had used for their pallet drop areas. However, a number of items had to be considered to customize the solution: the total space available for the gate system, the amount of clearance needed for operators to work the pallet, the interference of swinging doors near the conveyor and the movement of the pallet on the conveyor.
After reviewing the requirements, a Tri-Side safety gate model was selected. The Tri-Side gate features a single gate on one side, and a three-piece rear side gate. This model allows for the bags to be stacked while the rear side gate is down, preventing the pallet from moving on the conveyor, as well as keeping hands well away from the back of the pallet. Once the gates are reversed, the single gate closes and three-piece gate raises, allowing the pallet to be moved down the conveyor, while still keeping people from getting their hands in the way. In addition to the rails of the safety gate, metal mesh was installed on the gates to add extra protection for employees getting their hands near the conveyor. This created a safe environment while still allowing the transfer of the materials through the area. The area was made safe without slowing or changing the operation.
While our safety gates are best suited for fall protection, they can be used in unique ways in a facility, especially with unique applications. If you are looking for a safety solution not sure what you require or what will fit with your operation, then let us know - we can help you determine the best safety equipment for your application.