How to Identify Fall Hazards in Your Facility and Pick the Right Solution

Guest Blog by Aaron Conway from MHI Member Company, Mezzanine Safeti-Gates Inc.

OSHA requires fall protection for employees on any working surface that is elevated four feet or more; guardrails, toe-boards and other protective equipment like safety gates must be in place when the area is in use to keep employees safe and free from known dangers. ANSI’s requirements are even more strict, mandating fall protection systems be in place at all times for areas elevated three feet or more.

There are five places in a facility that pose great risk for falls and injury if left unprotected, from outside the facility to elevated surfaces within the building: loading docks, elevated workstations, pick modules, pallet flow lanes and doorways. While each of the five areas is different and can vary greatly from one facility to another, each is a common hazard that can easily be secured.

There are a wide variety of pallet drop safety gates in the market; however, it’s not always easy to pick the right design. Here’s a list of five questions to answer before purchasing a pallet drop gate in order ensure you select the right device for the job:

1. Where is the pallet drop opening — in a guardrail, pick module, loading dock, in a doorway or on a lift?

The location of the opening that needs to be secured is often a deciding factor when it comes to selecting the right safety gate; be sure to note any unique aspects about your environment and application. Guardrail openings, pick module platforms, pallet flow lanes, doorways and lifts should all be secured with a dual-gate system. Loading docks also need to be secured with safety systems, and those with automatic closing mechanisms are best because they do not rely on employees to close them. Each environment has its own set of requirements that must be considered before selecting the right solution. For example, a safety gate to secure an opening in a guardrail will be different from those to secure locations in multi-level rack systems or on loading docks.

2. Is a lift truck used to load pallets up to the area, or is an overhead hoist/crane used?

Consider how the material is loaded into the area; many pallet drop gates have parts that can impede the material handling process if it’s done with an overhead device. The areas which use overhead devices will need pallet drop gates that have an open area at the top to allow for the use of the crane or hoist.

3. What happens to the material when it is lifted up to the area?

Every facility has a different process for material handling. Sometimes, material is left in place after it’s been dropped into the area; in these instances, pallet drop gates must ensure that the employees working with the materials are not exposed to risks like falling. If the material is taken to another area for work after the drop, a pallet drop gate with enough room to move the material while reducing the safety risks is required.

Other times, material is placed on pallet flow lanes. Pallet flow lanes should be guarded, even if they are decked over, because there is an egress on to the lane and a ledge above ground level. Any guarding should be configured that no one can enter the lane while it is being loaded to avoid being hit by a pallet in flow.

4. What is the width of the opening? What is the available depth? What is the available height? What about the material width, depth and height?

Width, depth and height are key measurements in the selection of a safety gate model. Also consider the height and depth of the pallet and material, as some gates are better suited for extra tall or extra deep loads.

5. What is the environment in the area of the opening like?

The environment of the area where the safety gate will live is a key factor in the determination of what material that gate must be made of. If it’s a clean environment, such as one in a food manufacturing facility, the gate will most likely need to be constructed out of stainless steel. Corrosive environments in chemical manufacturing facilities may also require stainless steel. If the safety systems will be located outdoors, like many dock operations, weather must be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that some areas may be much more complicated, and more questions may need to be asked to determine the right pallet drop gate for the facility. The manufacturers of the gates can help you determine the right fit, and it may require a custom build. However, by answering these five questions you can rest assured that you are well on the way to selecting the right pallet drop gate.