Speed and efficiency is a goal of any business today, especially in material handling, distribution and manufacturing. Customers today want to ensure they are operating at their highest levels, and given this goal and the rise of available technologies, automation is top of mind for most of our customers.
However, automation of safety equipment is not always top of mind. In fact, manual operation of our safety gates used to be our first recommendation, and it is still a very popular and viable option. We also recognize that power operation and complementary technologies for safety equipment is often needed for automated applications and processes. While many facilities are undergoing changes to include automated processes, safety of employees is still of utmost importance.
More companies are looking to ensure safety equipment, including dual-gate systems for fall protection, around pallet drop areas makes a positive impact rather than impede automation or efficiency. Any technology used for safety gates must be designed in a fashion to help companies speed their operations, especially those that incorporate AGVs and lift trucks, without compromising safety.
There are many different ways to configure power and technology, from push button stations to remote control operations. Whether you are retrofitting power to existing safety gates or planning to purchase new systems, keep these four key points in mind to achieve success.
The first thing to keep in mind when you look to power operate a safety gate is that it is a commercial motor that works for your environment. You must ensure it has enough horsepower to match the expected use of the safety gate. If your application is very repetitive, you’ll want to make sure it can provide speed as well. Size and placement of the motors can also be an issue, so it’s important to discuss these issues before choosing a motor.
Environments Matter Too
Where is the application located? Is it in a climate-controlled environment that is extremely hot or cold? Is there a need for rinsing the environment? Ensure the motor that you use is able to operate within any conditions that may be present in the facility. Motors are available in water- and explosion-proof options, and numerous controls, such as flashing lights and caution alarms, can be added.
Capture the Signal
Power operation alone is not enough to ensure your speed and efficiency is at its highest. Technology is needed to allow the safety gates to communicate with other plant equipment and software, and we offer our safety gate customers integration options with many different technologies.
For example, controls and sensors integrated with power operation on our safety gates send AGVs a signal when the ledge gate is up, telling it to load material to the pallet drop area. After the pallets are loaded, the sensors from the AGV send a signal to the safety gate to use the motor to close the ledge-side gate so employees can work with the material.
Radio frequency is often used to allow the safety gates to communicate with wireless radio frequencies on lift trucks. When the lift truck is ready to replenish the pallet drop area, the lift truck sends a signal to the safety gate to ensure the ledge side gate is raised. Once the area has been replenished, another signal is sent to the safety gate telling it to close the ledge side gate so employees can access the material.
Sensors on safety gates can also be wired into a facility’s software system to integrate with processing computers in order to track materials and determine which areas must be replenished. These are just a few options and applications; each system can be tailored to the facility and company’s needs.
Sometimes, another eye on things is helpful. When you add power operation and other technologies to safety gates, it is important to utilize built-in safety features like photo eyes. This helpful technology can detect the presence of a person or object and prevent the gate from opening or closing. An adjustable clutch that engages if the gate makes contact with another object can also be included.
Remember, when added to any new or existing safety gate model, power operation and technology can save time and provide efficiencies while keeping employees safe. Commercial motors, wireless controls, sensors and software integration can make the operation of a safety gate seamless with automated operations. Choose wisely.
Elevated work platforms are found in almost every industrial facility — fall protection equipment is necessary in all facilities that feature any elevated workspace. OSHA’s fall protection codes require the equipment at 48 inches, and ANSI standards list 36 inches as the required height. Dual-gate safety systems are most often the best fall protection solution, but facilities are very diverse, and there are particular safety solutions that work best in each type of facility.
While most safety gate models are dependent on the application, certain designs lend themselves to a specific type of facility. We’ve put together a quick guide to selecting the right safety gate for each type of facility.
Facilities like food processing or chemical plants often feature production platforms with tight quarters on elevated platforms. Overhead hoists are often used near the platforms to load super sacks to elevated areas so employees could mix the ingredients into the hoppers. The Open Top safety gate model is ideal for areas with overhead equipment because this design uses an interconnected dual-gate system without any overhead mechanics that ensures one gate is always protecting the employees from the ledge. This design allows the hoist to access the area from above while keeping the employee a safe distance from the ledge.
Tri-Side safety gate models are popular for areas loaded by a lift truck with limited depth due to the location of the hoppers. 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. Our safety gate designs can be made in stainless steel if the facility environment is hostile or the gate is exposed to frequent rinsing.
These facilities often feature rack-supported pick modules. The original rack-supported dual-gate system, the Rack-Supported Roly gate, is often the best choice for fall protection in most of these configurations, as the gates never extend into the truck or picking aisle, and do not interfere with the truck loading the upper levels of multi-level picking systems. 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.
If the picking bays include pallet flow lanes in which multiple pallets deep are loaded, then you should install a version of the Rack-Supported Roly gate that is designed as deep as the flow lane. The additional depth ensures there is a gate in place at all times and prevents an employee from entering the aisle while the area is being loaded. This is especially important in a cluster-picking design where employees travel an aisle between the lanes to pick from multiple pallets at the same time.
Record Retention Centers:
Many storage facilities feature elevated work areas with limited headroom, and in these buildings, the Pivot safety gate is the best choice, as the design operates on only two pivot points and can fit into areas with limited space. In facilities with multi-level rack systems, the Rack Supported Pivot safety gate is the best choice, as it provides the most free space behind the pallet. With the pivoting framework, the rear gate extends back beyond the upright to secure the pallet, then moves out of the way when the ledge gate is closed, eliminating the need for a permanent structure to be located behind the upright.
Some facilities, like grocery and retail stores, feature elevated areas on which employees work. The most popular of these is a loading dock - often the busiest place in a facility, they pose a number of safety hazards.
For example, we worked with a supermarket chain to provide fall protection in their loading dock. On the lifts used in the dock, our Dock-Lift safety gate features gates that automatically open and close to provide fall protection while material is moved from the lift, truck and dock. On the loading dock, our Loading Dock Safety Gate is ideal as this design is single-gate system that allows the employee on the loading dock to raise and lock open when the tractor trailer is in place, and automatically close once the truck drives away from the area.
Large retail stores and museums can often feature elevated work platforms or mezzanines, and in most of these facilities, our Roly safety gate is often the best model to provide fall protection. The Roly safety gate is the most flexible in terms of size, and is the best model if the safety gate needs to be operated remotely from the lower level or a lift truck.
While the guide above outlines the most popular designs for each facility, your specific application may need a custom design. We are always happy to help you determine the right design for your application, and look forward to helping you choose the best safety gate for your facility.