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Protective Guarding: Elevating its Role in Your Facility

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Pedestrians must be protected from getting too close to machinery or automated vehicles, and out of automated or robotic workstations. To prevent contact, some facilities may install pedestrian cages or guardrails. (Photo courtesy ProGMA/ Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc.)

Industrial facilities can feature many areas that pose risk of injury to employees. In fact, fall protection and machine guarding omissions were among the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations in 2017. Not only do the OSHA violations come with potential fines, it can add costs for missed work and insurance claims—if employees are injured or, even worse, killed on the job.

Over 50,000 injuries occur per year due to employees coming into contact with machinery or falling product. Protective guarding reduces the risk of injury by providing fall protection and preventing contact with moving equipment. It also protects the equipment used in facilities by preventing damage and associated impact costs. Protective guarding can also enhance facility safety by helping to protect the building structure itself, as well as delineating areas of potential danger around and within the building.

Many areas within the facility feature hazards, and they start outside of the building in the loading dock. First, shipping docks and the physical building must be protected from the trucks in order to protect it from structural damage. In these areas, bollards, bumpers and wheel guides should be in place to prevent accidents.

Personnel must be also protected from vehicle traffic, as well as from falling from lifts or the actual loading dock. Guardrails, lift and loading dock safety gates are some of the equipment that should be utilized to avoid employee injury.

Moving inside the building, pedestrians must be protected from getting too close to machinery or automated vehicles, and out of automated or robotic workstations. To prevent contact, some facilities may install pedestrian cages or guardrails. Some stations may feature welding or areas that need physical barriers, like welding curtains, to protect others from sparks or debris, while other areas may need machine guarding or technology, such as optical electronic devices, to protect employees from moving equipment.

Automated vehicles can also pose risks to equipment in the facility if they collide with the system. It’s important to protect pallet rack uprights, tunnel bays or the ends of rows with rack guarding to ensure no structural damage occurs. Most material handling and manufacturing facilities feature elevated work platforms. These may be stand-alone areas, mezzanines, walkways or pallet drop areas within pick modules.

Openings on any elevated work platform must be secured with some type of pallet drop safety gate to prevent falls. It’s also critical to use products like wire mesh or netting to secure any products stored on racks or elevated shelving systems—to ensure they don’t fall and strike someone below.

If the facility features vertical reciprocating or overhead conveyors, these areas will also need protective guarding. Vertical reciprocal conveyors move material from one level to another, and enclosures are needed to prevent employees and product from falling during the move, as well as to secure pallet loads within the enclosure. Overhead conveyor systems often need some kind of safety netting or other system to prevent product from falling and striking a worker or machinery.

A wide array of guarding equipment is available today, each designed to protect specific areas, equipment and personnel throughout a facility. A great resource for information on these products is the MHI’s Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA). Its members are the industry’s leading suppliers of fixed protective guarding designed to protect personnel, equipment and inventory in industrial facilities.

The group’s mission is to educate companies about industrial safety solutions, and it has created many resources that outline the benefits and advantages of using protective guarding within your facility. The resources include an educational video series; the Ergonomics and Safety blog; and a library of application studies and photos that can be helpful in the process of making your facility a safe environment. WMHS

Try out our FREE ProGMA Technology Tool on the ProGMA website. This tool is especially for safety professionals, facility managers, maintenance managers, end-users and consultants who need to access comprehensive information on any and all guarding products that they might need/want in their facility. A user can type in a specific search, search by category and even by company. Through a simple search, users can easily determine the proper protective guarding that will make areas in their facility safer and receive a list of manufacturers that offer the equipment. Access the ProGMA Technology Tool today by visiting our website:

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