The topic of worker safety is as evergreen as it is important. Luckily, there are companies creating products to keep workers safe. We talked with the folks at Rite Hite about the solutions available to prevent workers from falling on the job.
Worker safety is an important topic in any industry. What does the OSHA standard 1910 Subpart D say about fall protection for workers?
This rule was recently updated to revise the general industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards on slip, trip and fall hazards. Considering that slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of worker deaths and lost workdays due to injuries, it was important to update this rule, which hadn’t been revised since it was adopted in 1971.
One of the important new features is the inspection of walking-working surfaces, which requires employers to examine all walking-working surfaces regularly to correct, repair or guard against hazardous conditions. Any type of falling hazard—from loading dock openings to pit areas—should be protected.
What can companies do to stay in compliance?
Following OSHA standards 1910.28 and 1910.29 by routinely inspecting walking-working surfaces is a great first step. Finding potential risks through examination—instead of by accident—allows facility managers to mitigate those risks.
As an example, most loading docks present a 4-ft fall hazard if the dock door is open without a trailer in position. This area must be protected. Chains across the opening will not meet OSHA’s requirements. We’d recommend a Dok-Guardian XL, which is 58in tall and can withstand strikes of up to 30,000lbs of force (not uncommon of many forklifts).
So, then how does your GateKeeper product help ensure workers’ safety from falls?
The GateKeeper is another product that helps mitigate fall hazards. Positioned at the edge of a mezzanine or elevated work platform, the GateKeeper utilizes a dual reciprocating barrier to create a safe loading access area. When the outside gate is opened to load materials by forklift, the inner gate closes to prevent workers from getting near the edge. Once the materials are secured on the platform, the inner gate is opened by the worker, which automatically closes the outer gate. The worker can then unload materials on the elevated work area for storage. Ensuring that there is always a safety guard between the worker and a potentially catastrophic fall is the key.
What about the RacKeeper Safety Gate?
While it doesn’t currently meet regulations associated with OSHA’s Walking-Working Surface, the RacKeeper works in much the same way as the GateKeeper with a dual reciprocating barrier. The big difference is that the RacKeeper is designed to use the existing storage rack structure in a facility as part of a multi-pick module application. It’s critical to save space with a limited footprint.
Switching gears, how do in-plant safety barriers help to protect workers?
In-plant safety barriers provide a physical element that painted yellow lines just can’t deliver. Barriers can separate walkways and aisles from potentially dangerous fall hazards, as well as operations performed by heavy equipment and robotic equipment.
Instead of simply following an antiquated safety recommendation (like 10,000 pounds moving at 4 mph), we believe in a formula-based metric that allows facility managers to specify precise barriers to their exact needs. Barrier Load And Speed Testing (BLAST) considers both the weight and speed of an impacting object using the kinetic energy formula (EK = ½mv2, where m=mass [weight] and v=velocity). The proper barrier can be selected based on how fast and what types of loads forklifts carry in that particular area of the plant.
Why choose safety barriers, what are the benefits?
In instances like elevated platforms, regulations such as OSHA standard 1910.28 require handrails. Dual reciprocating barriers meet that expectation. On the floor, barriers comply with OSHA standard 1910.23, which requires guarding floor and wall openings and holes.
Because the issue of money is always so important, how can a customer measure the return on investment (ROI) of purchasing one of your safety solutions?
You can’t really put a price on safety. It’s tough to monetize what it means when employees know their employer values safety. Injuries cost businesses thousands of dollars in missed time; not to mention possible liability claims. OSHA fines can start costing tens of thousands of dollars if an audit reveals any safety shortcomings.
What’s your piece of advice for companies looking to increase safety in their warehouse?
Understand the rules and regulations that help keep your employees safe. Then, go beyond that and attend a webinar or training to learn best practices that are geared toward meeting future regulations. Warehouses and distribution centers don’t have to sacrifice safety in the name of profitable efficiency. Talk to your sales rep about finding the right safety solutions for your facility. WMHS