Facility Safety: How to Secure Pallet Drop Areas Accessed by Overhead Hoists

Many manufacturing and material handling facilities – especially chemical companies and food processing plants – use overhead hoists to load and unload materials to pallet drop areas or production platforms. In some operations, overhead hoists lift materials up to an elevated work platform instead of using a lift truck. This is the traditional method of lifting super sacks up to the processing platform where they can be dumped into hoppers.

Other facilities may use a lift truck to elevate the material up to the platform, but then will use an overhead hoist to access the material once they are ready to work with the material. This is a common method of emptying bags of ingredients off of a pallet.

In both of these instances, employees typically work around the ledges of these elevated platforms. In these scenarios, a pro-active guarding solution should be installed to keep workers and material from falling from the elevated platform.

When you are looking to secure these areas, it’s important to keep these things in mind:

If the operation requires overhead access, then the safety device must be designed to integrate with the machinery that is being used. For instance, the application may feature an overhead crane used to lift super sacks up to the platform or a vacuum hoist that is used to unload material off of a pallet. In both examples, the safety device in place can not include overhead mechanics for successful and smooth operation. The safety gate needs to provide a clear overhead path to move the material through the area to be successful.

Take a look at the access required at both the ledge and above the pallet drop or production area. Note how the materials are being loaded and unloaded. If a forklift is lifting material up to the ledge and a hoist is being used to unload the material then the overhead access is only needed on the operator’s side. Also determine if the materials have to be moved to another spot or if will they be picked from one or both sides. These bits of information can dictate the type of safety gate required.

Determine the amount of space you have on the pallet drop area. The overhead device will need enough room to move the material into the pallet drop area. Employees must have enough room to work with the material and and be kept safe from any swinging motions from equipment above. This detail will not only keep employees safe, it will also ensure any safety barriers that you install do not impede with productivity.

It’s important to note that chains or ropes that latch across the area will not suffice as fall protection for employees; it won’t help you comply with OSHA and ANSI fall protection regulations either. Solid protective barriers that are in place at all times — including when material is being loaded, picked, staged, removed, etc. — are needed in these applications – any that employees are working on elevated surfaces of four feet or more. In the selection process, make sure you note any special details about your application and equipment before you work with a safety gate provider to determine the best solution for your needs.

Aaron Conway is President of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc. and can be found online at www.MezzGate.com

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