Enhance Your Facility with Safety Barriers, Smart Controls

Warehouses and distribution centers have always been dangerous workplaces – and they may be getting more dangerous. As ecommerce has grown, so have consumer expectations for overnight delivery, forcing fulfillment operations to work faster than ever to keep up. Even without those pressures, material handling is traditionally among the most hazardous of industrial operations. Forklifts are involved in nearly 25% of all industrial accidents, primarily in loading dock areas. Dock door openings are a big part of this safety problem, especially in facilities that don’t use proper loading dock barriers, where forklifts are at risk of accidentally rolling or driving off the edge. It’s a 4ft-fall which can be costly and sometimes fatal.

Barriers are also a critical part of safety in other parts of industrial facilities, including elevated workspaces like mezzanines or pick modules. This article will examine the use of safety barriers at loading docks and elevated workspaces, as well as how to make sure they comply with OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces regulations. It will also look at the benefits of interlocking safety barriers with other pieces of dock equipment so they can only work in a safe sequence of operation.

Barriers at the loading dock

While there may be a valid reason for loading dock doors to be open without a trailer present, such situations create a very real danger, particularly involving forklifts. Accidents created by forklifts inadvertently driving off dock edges are almost always serious, and they occur surprisingly often. It is estimated that they account for 7% of all reported forklift accidents. Even if the dock doors are closed, they may not prevent these mishaps, as most are not designed to stop a forklift.

Loading dock safety barriers provide a simple and cost-effective way to address this problem. The first criteria in selecting a dock barrier is to find one capable of withstanding a forklift impact. To comply with OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces rule, these barriers cannot be lower than or deflect beyond 39in off the ground. The Dok-Guardian® XL Safety Barrier by Rite-Hite® is one such product. Constructed of bright red PVC-coated fiberglass mesh curtain and four yellow, heavy-duty polyester restraint straps, at 58in tall, it meets the OSHA height requirement and can stop up to 30,000lbs. of force.

The retractable barrier can stretch across openings of up to 12ft. 5in. It is anchored on either side by 62-in-tall steel Warden™ guards designed to protect the door tracks. In dock areas where space is tight, a common member design can be employed, which allows side-by-side barriers to share their Warden guards. For facilities using smaller material handling equipment, a lighter model (capable of stopping 5,500lbs. of force) is available. Products such as these create a visual barrier that reminds employees of the potential fall hazard, as well as physical barrier that – if necessary – can stop wayward equipment before it goes over the edge.

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