Protecting Pedestrians in an Industrial Facility, a ProGMA blog
To complement a new educational video, thought leaders representing the Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA), an MHI product group, discuss the importance of protecting personnel, equipment, and inventory in industrial facilities.
In support of the latest in a series of videos published by the Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA), our product group within trade association Material Handling Industry (MHI) has launched an awareness campaign to improve protective guarding for pedestrians in warehouses, distribution centers, and other industrial facilities. The latest video, titled “Prevent Accidents & Injuries: Protecting Pedestrians in an Industrial Facility,” can be viewed at mhi.org/progma/videos.
The 1:36min-long video opens with an alarming stat that 50,000 injuries a year are caused by contact with machinery and falling materials in warehouses, according to OSHA. ProGMA member companies offer a myriad of affordable and accessible solutions to give protection to pedestrians from mobile equipment, machinery, and falling objects. However, guarding is inexplicably overlooked in many industrial facilities.
ProGMA research and accident statistics suggest that large, medium, and small companies fail to look at the bigger picture to understand the importance of implementing these guarding and safety solutions to protect their people, equipment, and facilities. The cost in repairing damaged equipment, facility structures, and, worse, injuries to personnel hits a firm’s bottom line hard. Further, if a company waits to implement guarding solutions after the fact, it will cost them three to five times the amount of doing so upfront.
Paying the price
Tight budgets are often cited as the reason for inadequate guarding, but oftentimes people do not see or understand the level of danger until someone gets hurt or equipment, product, and machinery get broken. We are frequently engaged in outreach endeavors to urge facilities managers and other purchasing decision makers to take a step back and perform a safety audit at a site to determine high areas of possible accidents and then work to find and implement the right solution for the application. A good strategy is to tackle high-risk areas and work one’s way down to lower risk areas to accommodate budget restraints. If a company’s safety budget has expired, it might be possible to utilize excess maintenance monies.
As our video explains, industrial guardrails when properly spaced are an excellent option to protect pedestrians who walk adjacent to mobile equipment aisles and to prevent them from straying into areas where they are not permitted, say, where lift trucks and carts travel. Without guarding in place, distracted pedestrians and drivers might not always be aware of the present dangers. Personnel may be moving product with a pallet jack, for example, and the load could block their vision.
Such guardrails can be installed upfront or retrofitted at any time—it’s worth reiterating that is does not make a difference. In either scenario, the key is to plan to allow as much room as possible for safe motorized and pedestrian traffic in an aisle. Note that guardrail, whether polymer or steel, does require space for the material as well as appropriate distancing from the items being guarded to take into account vehicle impact and product deflection. Most people do not think about product deflection, but the quality of the product will determine the distance and required space for the guardrail.
ProGMA has 20 member companies, many of which provide guarding equipment for pedestrian protection, including Bluff Manufacturing, Jesco, SpaceGuard, Steel King, Wildeck, WireCrafters (all steel), A-Safe, Boplan USA, McCue, and Slowstop Guarding (all polymer). Options include single and double guardrails; pedestrian gates; steel and polymer designs; flexible and bounce-back bollards; and polymer and steel bollards.
Double rail guarding is the most secure way to protect equipment, work cell areas, and pedestrians from high-traveled lift truck traffic. Should an accident occur a double high guardrail does a better job of containing the unit’s load from spilling over into a work or walking area. Single rails work to stop a moving vehicle but not the load from tipping off and causing further damage and/or injury.
Man vs. machine
As the video continues, it explains that barrier guards made of mesh and steel or polymer also keep pedestrians and workers from getting too close to machinery. Steel and polymer rail guarding and bollards prevent mobile equipment from hitting machinery, while mesh guarding prevents people from getting in harm’s way, it adds. Wire Partitions of woven or welded wire are commonly used to separate work areas from personnel to protect people from getting close to machinery, robots, and various automated equipment systems. Netting and wire partitions are also used on storage racks and equipment above to prevent items from falling below.
Various options are available from ProGMA members Carron Net Company, InCord, Industrial Netting, Folding Guard, Husky Rack & Wire, Jesco, SpaceGuard Products, Troax, and WireCrafters. Netting and wire partitions come in different patterns, material thicknesses, structural framing, and mounting styles. The product chosen is driven by the application needs and other requirements. A ProGMA member company can help one secure the appropriate product for the application.
To prevent items from falling from mezzanines or overhead storage rack systems, a traditional wire mesh, expanded metal or safety netting may be used. Netting provides a flexible alternative that absorbs the kinetic energy of falling objects such as boxes on a storage system. Both netting and wire partitions can be misapplied so understanding the application and the needs of the customer will help determine the right product for the application; each has their pros and cons. Likewise, the type of material, the intricacies of the product, and the quality of the design drive cost.
When a company is looking to add guarding to improve security and safety within an operation, they should contact the equipment manufacturer so that they can get them in contact with qualified help to aid the effort in finding the right solution. A consultation with a ProGMA member company may include an in-depth application survey to determine the needs of a facility along with product information, design layout and concept drawings, in addition to animated solution videos already developed by the industry. ProGMA has a number of videos to help management and the safety team at a facility. A maintenance department can even install a lot of the equipment.
See the latest video and others in the series at mhi.org/progma/videos.
The Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA) members are the industry’s leading suppliers of fixed protective guarding products designed to protect personnel, equipment, and inventory in industrial facilities. Member companies meet regularly to review, discuss, and revise the standards for design and performance of protective guarding products used in the material handling industry. ProGMA member companies are committed to the development, maintenance, and publishing of industry standard specifications for these systems. Visit the website at mhi.org/progma.