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, material handling and manufacturing facilities looked much different - there were not as many levels or intricate picking modules, and machinery was very different. Safety was not really top of mind; chains were the most popular way to secure a pallet drop 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 pallet drop 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 mezzanine 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 distribution 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.
Summertime…if you follow song lyrics, you know that living is supposed to be easy, but if you work outside or in a bustling material handling facility, it may not be the case. Summer brings elevated temperatures, humidity and vacations, all of which can affect worker performance in any industrial facility, but those working on and around elevated platforms and loading docks can be greatly impacted.
We all know summer feels more loose than other seasons - it’s likely that childhood summer break feeling that we have ingrained into our thoughts. However, that summer feeling should never be applied to safety, especially in material handling applications that feature elevated platforms. Protecting workers at all times - even in the easy months of summer - is a mandate.
While summer doesn’t mean you have to change all of your safety procedures, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Hot temperatures and increased humidity can make employees working in operations - especially those outdoors in the dock - tired. When they are tired, they often work more slowly and attention gets focused on how they feel rather than what they are doing. In these conditions, fall protection is of utmost importance. Make sure that employees are using all of the safety equipment correctly, especially when they are working in pallet drop applications on elevated platforms or handling in loading dock operations.
On elevated pallet drop areas, platforms and mezzanines - anywhere an employee works that is elevated inside the facility, dual-gate systems are the right solution. These safety systems use two counterbalanced gates so that when the ledge side gate is down, it provides fall protection for the entire workstation. Employees don’t have to remember to move any equipment back into place when they start picking from the pallet - key when they become overheated.
Safety equipment with automated operations, like our Dock-Lift and Loading Dock gate models, provide automatic fall protection; they don’t rely on tired employees to remember to close the gates. In our Dock Lift design, the gates automatically close as the lift begins to rise, and do not open until they reach the dock or ground level. In our Dock Gate design, the gate automatically closes as the truck drives away. Both provide fall protection without relying on workers to remember to close the gates - key to safety in any season.
In addition to temperature extremes, summer brings many vacations - if there are too many employees with time off, temporary workers can be brought in to meet product demand. In addition, if employees have trouble with child care, they may have to bring their child to work - often these “helpers” can be a distraction for all involved in operations.
New employees must understand all safety procedures and know how to run the equipment properly. Take 15-30 minutes each morning to evaluate any new employees - or those that may have “helpers” to determine what training is needed if any, to ensure a safe work environment.
By taking a little time to ensure your operations are safe and that all employees know how to use fall protection equipment, your summer living may be easy after all.