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Three Signs You Need a Custom Engineered Safety Solution

Observing workflow helps identify protective guarding solutions.

By: Aaron Conway, Contributor

The High Pallet Pivot safety gate uses minimum platform space and handles pallet loads up to 80 inches tall. Image courtesy of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc.

Just like snowflakes, material handling facilities are all unique. There is so much change happening in the industry with automation booming, and new types of equipment being created to accommodate the increased demand for speed and storage. Given the changes, material handling equipment manufacturers need to be flexible and create solutions that will fit into these new systems and applications.

While in most cases standard size protective guarding will work within the changed environments, others require custom engineered solutions. These solutions must be tested to ensure they meet industry standards and comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, which may include numerous requirements. Ergonomics is also a factor when creating custom material handling equipment, especially when the equipment is heavy or large in size.

Determining whether a custom designed solution is needed can often be very apparent, especially when dealing with material of great size. However, other times it may look like standard size guarding is a fit, but when the workflow starts going, it becomes clear that a different solution is needed. Below are three signs that you may need a custom-engineered safety solution. Note that the examples will be centered around pallet drop safety gates, but the signals apply to a wide range of protective guarding solutions.

REAL ESTATE SQUEEZE

Space is a precious commodity in material handling facilities. Depending on the application, there must be enough space for employees, material and equipment. Barriers to keep all three safe, and oftentimes away from each other, have to be included within the spaces. When space is compromised or extends beyond a double-wide pallet drop area for instance, custom engineered solutions are often the answer.

For example, we worked with a company to secure pallet drop areas in a new pick module and rack system. The bays were 156 feet wide to accommodate three pallet positions, and space in the bay was tight, so the gates had to take up minimal space while providing fall protection.

To accommodate the material in the three pallets’ positions in the bays, we created a custom designed high pallet pivot safety gate, which normally can handle pallet loads up to 80 inches tall while using a minimum amount of space on the platform. The gates were constructed wide enough for the pallet positions, while maintaining a safe environment for the workers in the bay at all times. Although the safety gates were made 13 feet wide and out of heavy square steel tubing, we ensured ergonomic, effortless operation by including our hydraulic gas assist mechanism.

Roly® pallet drop safety gates come in standard single and double-wide sizes, and are the most versatile gates for custom engineering. Image courtesy of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc.

ROBOTS ON THE MOVE

While there are usually still more people in facilities than robots, the investment into this technology is growing. Companies want to make sure their employee safety, investments and equipment are protected. If robots get damaged, not only is it monetarily expensive, it can shut down the complete system for hours or days. If robots fall from an upper level, the safety of employees below is at risk, and the falling robot can also damage the machines below.

We are seeing more and more facilities using lifts and conveyor systems in their applications, especially with robots moving from the floor level, up into the system. To prevent robots from falling from these empty shafts, we created custom safety gates that automatically open and close with the lift to ensure the robots are contained without relying on an employee to secure the area.

MATERIAL MISHAPS

How is the material packaged when it’s placed in the pallet drop area? Is it all wrapped and contained, or is it smaller boxes and loose material? Material in pallet drop areas can face many hazards while it’s waiting to be picked and moved.

Fork lift trucks and pallet jacks can jostle pallets or pierce packaging around the material, leaving it exposed on the ledge. Material can also fall from the drop zones, crashing to the lower level; creating a safety risk for employees, and leaving the materials and machinery below exposed to damage from falling debris.

We’ve recently helped customers secure the ledge-side of a pivot safety gate with metal mesh guarding to keep material contained in the pallet drop area within a pick module. Another customer wanted to ensure its material, which was of smaller nature, did not leave the busy pallet drop area while it was being moved. For this instance, we created a custom Total Control Access (TCA) safety gate that included full netting on all four sides of the safety gate, creating a fully enclosed, power-operated safety gate cage.

While the above scenarios are common signs that you need custom-engineered solutions, there are many additional unique situations in which they may be necessary. If you have doubts about the effectiveness of standard size protective guarding, reach out to your provider to discuss any concerns about the application. They can provide valuable guidance and the right solution for your facility. WMHS

Aaron Conway is President of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc., a provider of pallet drop safety gate systems. Learn more at www.MezzGate.com.

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