Safety in Pallet Flow Operations
As global competition increases and the consumer mindset of “faster is better” takes over business, companies are under a time pressure to ensure their products are sorted and delivered to their end users.
Many companies have added systems of multi-level pick modules with flow lanes to quickly move palletized products through while they also maximize their available space. These pallet flow lanes are often loaded from one side of the pallet racking and picked from the other side. As each load is removed a pallet load from behind automatically moves into position for picking.
These systems can be very complex, with multiple flow lanes within the rack system. Often employees are working to pick pallets from these systems, which can be located on elevated platforms. When employees work from these elevated levels in picking operations, safety is of utmost importance to keep them from falling off the ledge.
Although by design the picker is positioned a safe distance from the ledge, there is still an egress to the ledge so it must be secured. Often the entire lane is decked over for safety so the picker and palletized items don’t fall between the lanes. However, this creates another safety concern because the employees have access to enter the lanes, often to retrieve a dislodged item, or to square up a pallet, or simply because they can. Because of these concerns, we recommend decking the entire lane to move the ledge out to the end of the module. Then, the ledge should be secured with a gate system that allows pallets to enter the lane but prevents employees from falling.
We recommend two solutions. The first is our Pallet Flow Safety gate, which is a self-closing swing gate designed specially for pallet flow applications. It uses solid panel gates to allow the lift truck to push the gates open with the pallet and creates a smooth transition for the pallet to flow down the lane. Tension-adjustable hinges allow the gates to automatically close, and and heavy-duty welded stops prevent the gates from swinging outward, creating a fall-protection barrier.
The second solution, created to meet updated ANSI standards, is a gate system for pallet flow lanes that uses dual counterbalanced and interconnected gates to maintain a safe environment for employees at all times. One gate is positioned at the ledge, the second pallet in front of the first-pallet position where the picker is located. When the pallet flow side of the gate opens, the rear gate automatically closes, keeping the pickers away from the ledge and lane while pallets are deposited. To gain access the the lane, the picker raises the rear-side gate, which closes the ledge-side gate. This is the safest method of securing pallet flow lanes.
The system can be made as deep as the lane, and it not only keeps the employees secured from the elevated ledge, but it also prevents the lift truck from loading a pallet while an employee is in the lane, where a pallet could be pushed into his or her leg. The closed ledge-side gate becomes a signal that the lane should not be loaded. The lift truck can only load the lane when the picker closes the gate near them, which opens the ledge side gate – a signal to the driver below that the area is safe and ready to be replenished.
As your facility is updated to speed operations or maximize space, it’s always important to keep safety for your workers at top of mind. We are always working to ensure our safety gates keep up with new material handling technology and systems, and it’s important facility mangers do the same.