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With the launch of our new web site, we’ve added a blog. Here we’ll keep you updated on the latest news and trends for safety in the material handling industry. That may cover many topics, from the latest forecasts for manufacturing and material handling, updates in regulations and standards from OSHA and ANSI, as well as some of our safety gate installations and custom work.

On the blog you’ll also find updates from some of the organizations we belong to, like MHEDA and MHI, as well as MHI’s ProGMA Committee.

We’re looking forward to sharing our news and views with you, and if there is a topic you would like us to touch on, just let us know.

Retrofitting Safety: Going Out of the Box

Ideally, safety systems are built into industrial facilities as the buildings are constructed. This can provide for providing employees with the best protection from day one of the facility use. However, it’s not always possible to plan for all operations; a mixing area could turn into a walkway, and a pallet drop area could pop up in the middle of a pick module. In addition, safety regulations change over the years, and what may have passed as safe in the past no longer is valid.

It’s important to take a closer look at how operations and regulations have changed each year. If you have an area or application that needs to be secured because of changed operations, or updated due to regulation changes, you can find a safety solution that works. However, in many cases, you may need a custom solution to meet standards as well as keep your operations intact.

For example, we worked with a large record retention company that was updating mezzanines in order to meet new safety standards and create a safer environment for its employees. Due to the size of the facility, many areas had space limitations with low ceilings and limited depth on the mezzanine. The company also had installed many of our Pivot model safety gates in the past and wanted to install the same design in the new areas.

Originally designed for an application with a low ceiling, the facility’s vertical space limitations would not be an issue. However, the additional constraints of depth and load height ruled out our traditional Pivot gate model as a solution. In order to provide the necessary level of safety and keep operations unchanged for our customer, our engineers designed a High Pallet Pivot gate with a configuration that included multiple-pivot points that allowed the depth and height of the unit to be modified while still accommodating pallets of material. Operations were unchanged while the employees working on the mezzanines were much safer with the new safety gates in place.

If you need to update the safety in areas in your facility, make sure to keep in mind that you may not find an out of the box solution that will ensure your operations stay the same. Make sure to discuss the operational processes and application that you are looking to secure with the safety gate manufacturer, as well as challenges like limited depth of the platform, an extra wide load or very unique procedure.

Securing Unique Pallet Drop Areas

No two facilities are exactly the same. This is true for virtually all facilities, whether they are primarily used for production or for distribution. If you think about it, it makes complete sense - each facility has a different purpose and their operations within the facility are also unique.

This point is also very true for pallet drop areas; it’s not uncommon to have pallet drop areas that are unique. These areas can be limited in space, have large items being unloaded or loaded into the area, have a need extra wide or deep pallets, and more.

Keeping this general rule in mind, we often see pallet drop areas with different safety needs in the same facility. Selecting the same safety gate for each different area is not always a good idea as the size of the system may not accommodate for extra tall, wide or deep material.

We saw this rule come to life in a production facility that we helped to make safer. The facility had areas on the mezzanines that needed to be secured, and the production area had different safety needs than the areas in which the material was being loaded and unloaded. One area was configured for loads up to three pallets wide, while others had tall loads that needed to be fed into a production platform. In addition, some of the gates needed to be power operated so the fork lift truck drivers could control the gates from below.

After reviewing the facility’s requirements, our engineering team created custom Roly® safety gates for each of the areas. Designed to secure openings on mezzanines, the Roly safety gate provides protection for employees working on elevated platforms and mezzanines at all times. The Roly gate is one of our most customizable designs, and can be constructed in extra wide, deep and tall configurations.

Our team created multiple designs of our Roly safety gates to meet the facility’s different requirements in its pallet drop and production areas. An extra tall version of the Roly gate was created for the production platform, which allowed tall loads to be easily and safety loaded and unloaded to the area while keeping employees from falling from the ledge. The dual-gate safety system’s gates open and close within the confines of the gate structure, which helped to avoid obstruction into the production area.

The Roly gates were configured differently for the facility’s pallet drop areas. Gates were configured in extra wide designs to fit the three pallet width requirements, and other gates were created to fit extra deep loads. All of the safety gates in the pallet drop areas were configured with power operation that allowed the fork lift truck drivers to operate the gates from the ground level.

When you are working to secure elevated work platforms and mezzanines for your employees, remember that each of your areas is most likely unique. You may need to work with a safety gate manufacturer like us to ensure that any safety gate you install has the correct dimensions and fit for your application.

The Key to OSHA Compliance: ANSI

Safety regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can be difficult to navigate; have you sat down and tried to read through the code that pertains to elevated platforms or pallet drop areas? It can be difficult to determine which of the codes apply to that application.

When trying to determine the best practice for safety in a facility, ensuring compliance with the proper OSHA codes is mandatory. But, even though those codes are confusing, there is an easy way to ensure you will meet the code: consult the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) first.

ANSI, unlike OSHA, is very specific on the environment it addresses. And although the ANSI creates voluntary regulations, these regulations do meet OSHA codes, so if you follow an ANSI standard then you are following the OSHA code, and in compliance.

To illustrate the challenges of navigating the standards, here’s a look at the process to secure a pallet drop area on an elevated work platform or mezzanine:

When it comes to facility safety, many companies start by reviewing OSHA Walking-Working Surface regulations because they are mandatory. To determine how to secure this area you would go to OSHA's Walking-Working Surface Regulations, 1910 Subpart D. This code covers a wide range of fall related hazards and does not specifically address a pallet drop area. It can also create some ambiguity around when the safety gate or guarding can be open, as well as when a kick plate is required.

Companies may also consult ANSI’s MH 28.3-2009 Specification for the Design, Manufacture, and Installation of Industrial Steel Work Platforms. In this standard, section 6.4.3 specifically addresses pallet drop areas and advises that an opening in the guardrail used for loading and unloading material should be designed so there is a barrier in place at all times. This standard details the configuration and strength requirements of the barrier. It also outlines kick plate requirements clearly as well as rejects the use of specific safety devices, including swing and sliding gates.

By reading this ANSI standard, one will quickly learn how to secure the pallet drop area. Where the OSHA code may have created some questions about the specific safety requirements in a pallet drop area, ANSI clearly outlines the best practice for this specific environment. And again, ANSI can not recommend a practice that is in violation of OSHA code so if you follow ANSI standards, then you are meeting the necessary OSHA regulations.

So, what does the standard tell us about best practices for facility safety? ANSI clearly states that single barrier systems such as swing, sliding or lift-out gates used for protection on elevated platforms DO NOT meet the standard. The same goes for removable railings or nettings. While these are easy systems to install, none of these safety barriers provide the level of protection needed when it comes to fall protection for employees.

Only a dual-gate safety system meets ANSI standards; a barrier is in place even during the activity of loading and unloading material. This type of system is key because it’s pretty foolproof: when the rear-side gate is up, employees can access the workstation with a pallet or other materials while the ledge-side gate is down, creating a barrier on the ledge. When the ledge-side gate is up, allowing the workstation to be replenished or material removed, the rear-side gate is down, blocking employee access to the exposed ledge.

Like OSHA, we believe the safety of employees is not a voluntary matter; it’s imperative to ensure that safety systems are in place to prevent falls, as human capital is one business’s most important assets. If you are confused about complying with OSHA regulations, be sure to review the corresponding ANSI standards as they are more specific and easier to understand. After review, if you have questions or need to replace a barrier safety system to meet ANSI standards, please give us a call; we can help ensure you meet the standards and are keeping employees safe.

Hostile Environments: 4 Things to Consider

The environment in your facility is a big factor in operations, from manufacturing to material handling. Did you know that the facility environment is also a factor when it comes to the type of safety system that should be installed to keep your employees safe? Without the proper model and material, your safety system could be compromised or corroded, which may cause the materials or paint to contaminate your product, or for the system to fail as a safety solution.

Hostile environments can vary from facility to facility; some feature extreme cold or hot temperatures, while others may utilize frequent washing or rinsing of the area. Often employees are working in these environments to complete manufacturing or material handling tasks, and may work from elevated areas, in which a safety device must protect them from falling while being able to withstand the environment.

We offer many dual-gate safety systems that work in these environments. When looking to secure areas in facilities with hostile environments, it’s important to keep these questions in mind as it will help you select the right safety device for your facility and application.

Is the location of the safety device one that features extreme temperatures?
If your pallet drop area is located in a freezer or refrigerated warehouse, you’ll want a safety device with few moving parts. Our Pivot Model gates operates on steel pins inserted into nylon bushings so they are an ideal solution in this type of area.

Is it frequently rinsed with water or another substance?
When rinsing is involved, it’s key to select a safety gate model that has few moving parts, and uses stainless hardware. All of our standard safety gate models are made with powder-coated mild steel, with options for stainless hardware. We also offer all of our models in all stainless steel construction, with stainless hardware

What are your sanitary requirements?
If the pallet drop area is in a food processing environment, you need to review your own sanitation requirement and to communicate these requirements with the company providing your safety solutions. For our pallet drop gates, electro-polished stainless steel construction is an option. We can also cap all open ends in steel tubing to prevent debris from entering the system. In addition, our safety gates can be designed with no bolt holes in the tubing to further seal the unit.

If power operation is necessary, can the motor handle the environment?
We usually recommend manual operation of our safety gates, but there are instances when power operation is needed. If the safety gate will be located within a hostile environment involving cleaners or chemicals, you may need a sealed motor, or a Class 1, Division 2 “explosion proof” motor if there are ignitable concentrations of flammable gasses.

The key to installing a safety device that will hold up in its environment and function properly when needed is to know your facility environment and your specific sanitation requirements. This information must be given to a qualified manufacturer who specializes in these solutions. Here, at Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, we think we’ve seen it all, and have provided solutions for some very specific environmental requirements, but we welcome new challenges. So please reach out if you have a hostile environment that needs to be secured.