Loading docks often have many areas in which employees are at risk for falls. Even though dock height is commonly four to five feet, that height is enough to pose a fall risk at unprotected ledges. OSHA regulations state all working surfaces of 48 inches or higher need fall protection. These standards apply to all working surfaces in a commercial facility, even in the loading dock.
Dock operations in material handling or distribution centers are often one of the busiest places in a facility, with trucks loading and unloading product multiple times a day. Working conditions can also be extreme if the docks are located outdoors, requiring them to move material in all kinds of weather—cold, heat, rain and even snow. These factors can fatigue employees working in dock operations, placing them a greater risk for falls from elevated places - the lifts and the dock itself included.
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.
A dual-gate system typically used to secure the ledges of pallet drop areas on elevated work platforms would create a permanent safe environment but this system would interfere with the workflow of moving material through the area so it is not an option here. So one solution is to install a single-gate system that rolls, slides or pivots closed. This is an improvement over having nothing in place but it is only of any value when the gate is closed. Because this type of system depends on someone to remember then make an effort to close the gate, the gate is often left open. This means the truck can drive away and the area can be unsecured.
The best safety 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. Then this gate system 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.
We design this type of gate to fit any loading dock width. Our system rolls across the floor and compacts into the open position. A hydraulic assist mechanism allows for an easy, ergonomic operation. The compact design takes up a minimum amount of width in the area and can fit in locations with limited height. The locking mechanism is easily activated when the truck is in place, then is released when the truck drives away, allowing the gate to close in a slow, controlled manner in its own.
Our loading dock safety barriers are available in standard and custom sizes, and can be painted in any color or supplied in all stainless steel construction. Secure the elevated ledges of your loading docks, and make sure you take the responsibility of a safe environment out of the hands of your employees when you can. Have an automatic gate system installed proactively before it is needed, and that way if your employees are distracted, you will have the peace of mind knowing the safety will still be in place.
Has a rack-supported pick module recently been installed in your material handling or distribution facility? Is there one in the plans for the near future? While these systems are ideal for moving products through a facility efficiently, as well as maximizing space, it’s imperative to maintain a safe environment in the modules.
Pick modules are multiple level systems used to store inventory and to pick items for order fulfillment. By design, these systems place material and people on elevated levels. One of the main safety concerns 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 an elevated work platform or mezzanine, rack supported pick modules need fall protection systems. OSHA mandates that any working surface 48" or taller according should be guarded, and ANSI standards mandate the fall protection equipment at 36” or higher.
Pallet drop safety gate systems provide fall protection for these picking positions by securing the pallet drop areas with a gate at the ledge and a second gate behind the pallet. These two gates are counterbalanced and interconnected so one gate is always closed, separating the operator from the ledge, creating a safe environment while the employee picks items from the pallet. These systems are typically manually operated but can be powered for remote access by the lift truck operator.
Some pallet drop safety gate designs are engineered specifically for pallet drop areas in rack systems. These systems utilize the existing pallet rack for the frame of the design. By attaching to the existing rack uprights, the safety gate does not require its own support frames that need to be bolted into the decking where it would take up valuable space in the rack bay and could be damaged by lift trucks. It is best when these solutions are designed into the system by a rack provider or system integrator before installation so the rack system can be engineered to accommodate the safety equipment, but they also can be retrofitted at a later date if needed.
Several dual-gate safety designs are available in a rack-supported configuration, and each design provides an advantage. These models can provide safety without impeding production, even if you are loading large items, have narrow aisles or limited overhead space. To help you proactively secure these areas, we’ve provided an easy way to determine the best configuration for your system.
Narrow Aisles/Limited Aisle Space
The original rack-supported pallet drop safety gate system, the Rack-Supported Roly gate, is the best choice for most applications, 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 advantage of this system is that 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.
Limited Pallet/Material Space
In pallet drop areas with limited space, 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. It is important to make sure the moving gates will not interfere with the truck aisle and there is adequate clearance in the pallet area, as this design will extend out into the truck aisle and back into the picking aisle when the gate is operated.
Conveyor Operations/Limited Platform Depth
If depth on the platform is limited due to the location of a conveyor or a narrow aisle, then your best safety gate solution may be the Rack-Supported Tri-Side gate. This safety system uses a gate that moves straight up and down at the ledge, and never extends into the lift truck aisle. A rear ‘u’-shaped gate that closes to capture the pallet then moves up and out of the way to provide egress behind the area.
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.
If you have further questions about which safety gate design is best suited for your pick modules, be sure to discuss them with your rack provider, system integrator or safety gate manufacturer.