As 2017 comes to a close, we took a look back at some of our most popular posts about facility safety and fall protection, and thought we could recap some of that information in an easy way for you to digest as you think about your needs in 2018.
There are areas in warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities that pose risks to employees that stand out immediately; open elevated platforms that get a lot of employee foot traffic is just one example. However, there are often other areas that pose risk that are unidentified, and therefore, unprotected. Leaving areas unprotected not only expose risks to employee health, but also to violation of federal OSHA codes, and as a result, significant fines. These three areas are often overlooked for fall protection and safety:
Pallet drop areas on elevated platforms in which pallets are being loaded by a lift truck: Any opening on elevated platforms where employees are working expose them to the risk of falling - all openings should be secured.
Picking areas empty pallet bays or tote return bays on multiple level pick modules: Just like openings on an elevated work platform or mezzanine, any areas on a pick module where employees have access to an exposed ledge should be secured with a dual-gate system.
Pallet flow bays: While pallet flow lanes are not specifically designed for employee access, there are times where employees enter lanes, which puts them at risk for falling. Ledges of flow lanes should be secured with a physical barrier.
After you determine the areas that need to be secured, you need to select the right safety system. There are a variety of pallet drop gates in the market today, but many models are suited for specific applications and environment. It’s helpful to ask these five questions to make sure you get the right gate for the area you need to secure.
1. Is the pallet drop opening in a guardrail or in a doorway?
2. Is a lift truck used to load pallets up to the area, or is an overhead hoist or crane used?
3. What happens to the material when it’s lifted up to the area?
4. What is the width of the opening? How about the available depth and height, as well as the material width, depth and height?
5. What is the environment in the area like?
Once you pick the right gate for the job, you need to ensure that productivity stays intact, or even improves. Regardless of the operation, safety devices are a must in operations. If you are concerned that a safety device may impede operations or slow productivity, there are three key options to consider.
Power Operation: Using power-operation with our safety gate models can save time in operations in which lift trucks are depositing material to upper levels. Our power-operated systems include safety features like photo eyes and more.
Wireless Controls and Sensors: Adding controls or sensors to the safety devices can also speed operations, especially in those that incorporate AGVs.
Software Integration: Software integration with safety gates can help track product and processes in a facility’s operations, including the time it takes to complete each task.
Keeping employees safe by providing fall protection in every place that it’s needed is of utmost importance. Employees are a business’s greatest asset and key to its success. If you have questions about fall protection in your facility or about what safety gate model is right for your application, please contact us.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday.
“We decked over those flow lanes, so they don’t need safety gates there.”
That’s a common comment and misconception in industrial facilities where pallet flow lanes are installed in multi-level pick modules. These pallet flow lanes often are safety hazards; the automatic flow of pallets can injure someone standing in the lane, and can expose the worker to falls from the elevated level.
Inherently, the upper levels of pick module create the potential for fall hazards. The pallet flow lanes are installed over the rack system and were traditionally left unguarded because workers were not supposed to enter the lanes, instead they are instructed to pick from the pallet while standing on the platform. Because this positions the worker directly in front of an opening in the floor (and to prevent small items from falling off of the pallet), the lanes are often decked over. This did solve the issue of the loose items falling off the pallet, but it didn’t secure the employees from the opening in the floor, it simply moved this opening to the beginning of the lane.
Again, the thinking was the employee shouldn’t be entering the lane, but instead be standing behind the pallet on the platform. Reality, however, shows a different scenario; employees enter these lanes to retrieve a dislodged item, square up a pallet or simply because they can. This exposes them to being hit by a new pallet entering the lane, as wells as to falling from the upper level.
Because there is an egress on to the lane and a ledge above ground level, the lane should be guarded. In addition, since a pallet can be pushed into someone standing in the ledge, the guarding should be configured that no one can enter the lane while it is being loaded.
We worked in a facility that had a large, multi-level pick module with a number of bays in which they loaded pallets onto two deep pallet flow lanes in double wide bays. Employees were picking from the pallets on the second and third levels of the module. The end user was concerned for fall protection and the general safety of their employees so they were proactively looking for a guarding solution.
In order to permanently secure the ledge while allowing pallets to be loaded a dual-gate system needed to be installed. For this application, we provided a rack-supported version of our Roly safety gate, which uses dual counterbalanced gates that are interconnected so one gate is closed while the other gate is open. The gates were designed double wide to capture the two lanes in the bay and extra deep to capture the entire flow lane. The gate system used support panels that attached directly to the existing rack uprights to maximize space in the bay and for a rigid connection into the system that didn’t need to be lagged down into the decking.
The dual-gate system assured that the rear/operator side gate at the end of the lane was closed while the ledge-side gate was open, allowing the lift truck operator to load the pallets into the lane while a barrier was in place preventing the operator on the platform from entering the lane while the area was being replenished. The gate system was manually operated so the operator would open the ledge side gate when he/she was ready to pick from the pallet, which closed the ledge-side gate, maintaining a safe environment. The system also could be power operated with push-button stations on the lower level, or radio frequency remotes on the lift truck.
The end users on this particular project had concerns that the dual-gate system would impede the pace of their operation, but after installing and using for six months determined that the pace of productivity was not negatively impacted, in fact, it helped to speed up their process. The gate system became a signal between the operator on the platform and the operator on the lift truck. When the picker was ready for the lane to be replenished, he/she would close the operator gate, which opened the ledge-side gate, showing the lift truck operator that that area was ready to receive more pallets. When they were picking from the pallets, the ledge-side gate would be closed, showing the truck operator that those lanes were full or in the process of being picked.
Some companies will try to secure pallet flow lanes with self-closing swinging gates, however, we do not believe this is the right solution. A single gate system such as a swinging gate does not meet current ANSI standards for securing pallet drop areas on elevated platforms because the gates can be left open at times. This same scenario applies to pallet flow lanes, because when the lane is full, the last-pallet-in will hold the gate open, creating an unsafe, unguarded solution. The lane could be extended so the last pallet will travel far enough for the gate to close, but this will lead to production issues because the lift truck operator may load another pallet into a full lane, causing the last pallet to dangerously hang over the ledge and jam up the system. This will create an extremely unsafe area that will create new hazards.
Also, a swinging gate may secure the ledge (if all goes well and it is engineered to fit the system correctly), but it will not solve the secondary issue of keeping an employee out of the lane while the lane is being loaded. We have heard of incidents with pallet being pushed into the legs of operators who were inside the lanes – and these areas were “guarded” by swing gates. A dual-gate system eliminates all of these concerns.