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The Case for Protective Guarding

How facility operators protect workers and assets while cutting downtime.

By: Gareth Dunning, Contributor

Wraparound column guards – like the A-SAFE wraparound FlexiShield expandable column guard in the picture – can protect structural elements from costly damage. Also shown: the iFlex Single Traffic Guardrail+ barrier with pedestrian handrail and ForkGuard kerb barrier installed underneath and – in the background – a polymer Height Restrictor to protect overhead assets. Image courtesy of A-SAFE.

In busy manufacturing, warehousing and industrial environments, the need for protective measures has become paramount to combat work vehicle and machinery dangers. One such measure is installing protective guarding in critical areas. Protective guarding can be effective in numerous ways and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and applications. With it, facility operators can protect people, equipment and facility structures from heavy workplace vehicles, such as forklifts, as they perform various work tasks. Plus, on a more personal level, protective guarding can be used to keep personnel from unintentionally interacting with dangerous machinery.

With such a wide variety of applications, protective guarding offers benefits ranging from employee segregation, risk reduction, improved effectiveness and most importantly protecting employees from harm. Let’s look at the advantages of protective guarding and its significance in various sectors.

Blocking interactions with machinery

Machine guarding is designed to create a physical barrier between potentially hazardous areas and individuals. In particular, it is intended to prevent workers from touching or interacting with moving machinery parts or generally entering areas where machines are operating.

This method of guarding reduces the likelihood of serious injury by segregating dangerous machinery, as well as hazardous materials and/or restricted areas. Typically, a fixed guard with special fixings, machine guarding usually requires a non-standard tool to remove. The guards are positioned at a distance that restricts personnel from reaching around, through, over or under to access and/or touch areas that pose significant risk of bodily harm.

Boosting employee engagement

Your employees want and deserve to work in a safe and secure working environment. When protective guarding is provided it boosts employee morale and overall well-being.

Further, if workers feel valued and protected, they can focus better on their tasks in hand. This focus leads to increased job satisfaction, boosted engagement and improved productivity.

Installing protective guarding sends a clear message to employees: Their safety is your priority. It is a statement that shows an employer cares about its workers, which along with higher levels of engagement, the investment improves long-term employee retention.

Protecting building Infrastructure

Often the most vulnerable parts of a facility are its structural elements, including walls, corners, columns, pillars, charging stations, electrical panels and utility access stations. As the placement of these elements is fixed, and work activity must go on around them, they are vulnerable to repeated impacts from vehicles – especially in busy sites with a high volume of traffic.

While the damage done to building infrastructure might not be as immediately severe or disruptive as damage to other equipment and machinery, the effects of repeated impacts can break down a structural element over time. By installing robust protective guarding, often in the form of rigid or semi-flexible barriers, businesses can safeguard their investments and reduce the likelihood of financial losses due to vehicle impacts.

Driving productivity and efficiency

A low-level monoplex barrier such as the A-SAFE Step Guard, can be used to protect forklift charging stations from impacts while also serving as a step to help drivers climb aboard their vehicles. Image courtesy of A-SAFE.

A well-designed protective guarding system can complement and organize a business’ operations while enhancing productivity.

For example, by providing clear separation and defined pathways, a protective pedestrian barrier enables the safe and efficient movement of personnel and materials. Giving workers a safe path through a hectic facility, they can focus on their tasks without worrying about accidental collisions and injuries caused by unplanned incidents, unauthorized individuals or dangerous interactions with machinery.

In addition, protective guarding is an effective way to limit costly operational downtime. With protective guarding, you are preventing damage to equipment, reducing onsite injuries and protecting infrastructure from damage. Incidents at any of these hotspots can trigger unexpected downtime – pushing personnel out of the work schedule, stopping equipment operations until repairs can be completed and blocking work areas from use when infrastructure is damaged. Properly placed protective guarding can negate many downtime issues related to these elements.

Keeping Compliant

An array of industries is subject to rigorous safety regulations and standards. Protective guarding plays a pivotal role in ensuring compliance toward these requirements.

By implementing appropriate barriers, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to employee welfare and legal obligations. Compliance with safety regulations also helps companies avoid penalties, claims and damage to their reputation.

Adaptive Solutions for a safer workplace

Protective guarding systems can be designed and deployed to a range of different applications varying from industrial machinery guarding to segregation of employees and moving machinery, to infrastructure protection. Protective guarding enables businesses to effectively mitigate risks to employees whilst combating challenges within the workplace.

The materials used in protective guarding can vary greatly depending on the application and tolerances required. Steel is low in cost, rigid and easily replaced. Polymer is flexible yet durable, low maintenance and fit to purpose.

Likewise, the style of guarding varies. Nets are easy to install. Gates control the passage of traffic. Guardrails run between travel lanes and protect infrastructure. Bollards block vehicle paths. Low-level bumper barriers block fork intrusions. High-level bumper barriers shield door frames. Whatever needs protected, there is guarding designed to help.

When safety comes first

The benefits of protective guarding are undeniable across various industries and settings. It ensures the safety of personnel while protecting valuable assets and compliance with regulations.

Further, the installation of protective guarding sends a clear message to employees that their employer takes their health and safety seriously while creating a health and safety culture that is focused on employee well-being, operational efficiency and business continuity. WMHS

Gareth Dunning is the Head of Group QSHE for A-SAFE, the company that invented the world’s first advanced polymer safety guardrail. From warehouses, cold storage and manufacturing facilities to parking lots and airports; A-SAFE provides rigorously tested and certified industrial impact protection for a range of specialist applications.

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