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Guarding Your Key Assets: People, Products and Equipment

Contributor: MHI’s Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA)

Injuries to employees and damage to equipment can be prevented with the proper use of protective guarding. Image courtesy of ProGMA.

Protecting people in their workplace has never been more important than it is today. Material handling and warehousing environments increasingly include many areas in which an employee can become injured if proper protective guarding is not in place.

However, employees are not the only assets in an industrial facility that need protection. Products and the equipment to make and move the products need protection too, especially as the industry moves to use more automation and multi-level storage and rack bay systems. Facility managers must ensure safety systems are in place to protect employees, products and equipment.

Each year, 50,000 workplace injuries occur to due to contact with machinery and falling material in warehouses. That is just the injury to employees; often machinery can also be damaged in these accidents. Both incidents, often happening in the same accident, can be costly. With proper use of protective guarding throughout a facility, injury and damage can be prevented.

“There is really no excuse for not putting proper protective guarding in place to protect people, product and equipment, as there are a wide range of solutions on the market that will fit within any facility,” said Aaron Conway, President of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc. a ProGMA member company. “Take a look around the facility to make sure products are secured in every stage, and update areas where additional guarding is needed. It may require purchasing new equipment or modifying existing guarding solutions to provide additional benefit, like fall protection and product containment, for example.”

Most facilities will need to use a combination of protective guarding solutions to ensure safety for people, product and facility. Below are three scenarios that occur in most material handling and warehousing facilities that illustrate how protective guarding can keep accidents from happening.

Ground Level Traffic Aisles:

People and machines are working together in facilities, but they each need their own spaces. Create specific, separate traffic aisles for people and machines to protect employees that are walking adjacent to mobile equipment. Industrial guardrails are a good solution to keep employees from straying into areas where machines are operating. Consider double-rail guarding in high traffic walkways, as it minimizes trip hazards.

In busy areas around workstations, for example, steel and polymer rail guarding with bollards can prevent mobile vehicles or robots from entering areas where employees are working. Mesh guarding will also keep people from getting too close to moving machines.

Protecting Stored Products

In busy material handling and warehousing facilities, products are constantly being loaded, unloaded and moved within multi-level systems. When stored, products can be jostled and fall if a vehicle hits a rack system upright for example. To keep products from falling from elevated levels, install wire mesh, expanded metal or netting panels along the back of the system. The material used for containment will be dependent upon the product size and weight.

Products also can fall from elevated pallet drop areas in pick modules or rack systems as they are being loaded, unloaded or picked from. These areas should have a safety gate system in place at the ledge for fall protection. Some safety gates can be fitted with high strength netting to provide both product containment and fall protection at the same time.

Pallet Flow & Conveyor Systems

Many facilities have added overhead pallet flow and conveyor systems to move products from one area to another. On occasion, product can get jammed up within the system, causing it to fall off the flow belt or conveyor, with the potential to injure an employee below or damage machinery.

Safety netting and wire mesh enclosures can be used to prevent product from falling from overhead flow lanes or conveyors. They are typically installed on the sides and below the belt to create a see-through barrier and provide protection for employees and machinery below. WMHS

Find out more about ProGMA and its free industry resources at www.mhi.org/progma.

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