Your Gate Systems Are a Key Element of Your Safety Barrier System
Contributed by The Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association of the Material Handling Institute
In industrial areas where pedestrians encounter vehicle traffic, enter hazard areas or work on elevated platforms, protective guarding safety gates serve a critical role in a facility’s overall safety plan. By installing the necessary gates, facility operators help pedestrians and vehicle operators understand potential hazards, allowing them to make the right choices to protect their safety and the safety of their coworkers.
Why should I install a safety gate?
The decision to install an industrial protective guarding safety gate should be carefully considered. The best advice, however, is that it’s certainly better to overprotect rather than under protect. Your facility should incorporate safety gates to:
- Indicate an entrance into a work area
- Indicate an entrance to a vehicle-traffic area
- Indicate an entrance to or exit from a transitional platform (elevators, ladders, ramps)
- Protect an area where there is a potential fall hazard (such as a loading dock, scissor lift, pallet drop area, pick module)
- Provide access to machines or equipment surrounded by protective barriers
- Limit access to overhead storage and/or stop stored items from falling
- Improve situational awareness before entering a hazard area
What are my options for safety gates?
The types of protective guarding safety gates fall into three main categories: Those made from metal, those made from polymer or plastic and those using a mix of the two.
- Metal protective guarding safety gates offer extremely high durability, and can be fabricated in a variety of metals, including galvanized or stainless steel for sanitary or hazardous applications. Gates can be also be powder-coated with any color, often “hazard yellow” or to match the color of a rack system.
- Polymer or plastic protective guarding safety gates offer high durability and color stability. Polymer gates, in particular, are very low maintenance and return to their original shape if they take an accidental impact. Polymers and plastics are permanently colored “hazard yellow” and lightweight for ease of use.
- Hybrid protective guarding safety gates offer a few of the benefits of each.
What are the most important safety gate features?
The best protective guarding safety gates are designed with the facility operation in mind, while also aiming to satisfy the expectations of the end-user. Key features of industrial safety gates include:
- Durability – A safety gate could be used hundreds of times each day, so its overall durability is critical. Fixings and hinges, for example, should be highly reliable despite excessive use. In addition, if the safety gate is used in an application with a lift truck or AGV, it must be able to withstand an accidental strike.
- Self-closing and/or non-obstructing – In applications with pedestrians and traffic, a safety gate should self-close after a pedestrian passes through it, which prevents the gate from blocking vehicle or pedestrian traffic if left in the “open” position. If the gate doesn’t self-close, since some gates need stay-open functionality, then the gate needs to offer zero-route obstruction by telescoping inside the main barrier. In applications around elevated pallet drop areas or in rack supported pick modules, a dual-gate safety system can provide fall protection for workers by ensuring that the ledge gate side is closed when the aisle side gate is open, and vice versa, which protects workers from exposed ledges.
- Opening direction – To keep a gate from opening into traffic or into a picking aisle, the opening direction needs to be adjustable. In applications with pedestrians and vehicle traffic, gates should open away from traffic to slow pedestrians as they are entering vehicle traffic. Conversely, pedestrians leaving vehicle traffic areas will have an easier time exiting through the gate, which opens in the direction they are traveling. Safety gates on elevated pallet drop areas or pick modules should open without obstructing the aisle flow while allowing access to palletized material.
- Signage mounting – As protective guarding safety gates often lead to hazardous areas in the workplace, they have a secondary function: To display signage indicating the hazard. The space should be large enough to be easily seen and placed at an appropriate height.
- Intentional complexity – Safety gates should not easily allow entry into a hazardous area. Instead, safety gates require some intentional steps that slow a pedestrian, essentially forcing the user to make a spot check for hazards before proceeding. This intentional complexity can include releasing of latches to open the gate. Additionally, the placement of the gate should be carefully considered (such as not putting it directly in front of a pedestrian door or at the end of a long walkway) to prevent tunnel vision while walking.
- Ease of installation – While safety gates provide a critical function in industrial work areas, they shouldn’t be difficult to install. Complex installations are often delayed, which puts safety at risk until the gate goes up. The best safety gates can be installed in a few hours (or less).
What are the current regulations for protective barrier safety gates?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a Working-Working Surfaces Rule, 1910 Subpart D, which requires fall and falling object prone toon requirements, which include regulations for guardrails, safety gates, safety netting and other fall protection criteria. OSHA’s regulation mandates fall protection at the height of four (4) feet.
There are a number of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards that cover protective guarding and fall protection. These include MH32.1-2018 – Stairs, Ladders and Open Edge Guards for Use with Material Handling Structures; MH29.1-2020 Safety Requirements-Industrial Scissor Lift; and MH28.3-Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Work Platforms.
Taking the right steps toward improved safety
Understanding what you need from and what you can expect in a protective barrier safety gate will help you find the best gate for your facility. Whether it is the maintenance-free benefits of polymer gates or the durability of metal gates, safety should be your number-one goal!
For more information about safety gates and protective guarding equipment, visit the Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association at www.mhi.org/progma.
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