Automating Safety Gates for Fall Protection and Efficiency

Aaron Conway, President, Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc.Aaron Conway, President, Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc.
Today, manufacturing is more automated than ever. Customers are looking to automate everything in their facility, including protective guarding equipment like safety gates. Now is the time to automate safety equipment. But, every manufacturing facility is unique, and when it comes to safety gates, there is not a one model fits all; often customization is required.

There are a variety of ways that safety gates can be automated, and it’s largely dependent on both the facility and application. Plant layout is designed and constructed to meet the needs of each product being produced. While plants are often built to standard specifications, material and finished product are often not standard sizes, which means the drop area sizes for material are often not standard, and can include obstacles such as overhead hoists. In addition, the drop areas are often elevated, and when employees are working in these areas, fall protection is needed.

Our dual-gate safety systems make a positive impact around elevated pallet and material drop areas by keeping employees from the area ledges. Power and technology can also help track data and improve overall efficiency. We make sure any technology used with safety gates - either existing or retrofit - is designed to speed operations, especially those that incorporate AGVs or lift trucks while providing a safe environment for your employees.

Because we’re focused on safety, we always include photo eyes that detect the presence of a person or object with an automatic stop to reverse the direction of the gate, as well as an adjustable clutch that engages if a moving gate encounters an object.

Like the design of safety gates, power operation is also not one size fits all. You may have an environment that needs an explosion-proof motor, or if your facility has existing pneumatic power, it may be beneficial to hook into that system for power operation. The power will also be dependent on any additional technology being used with the system. For example, if the material is being handled by lift trucks, you may want radio frequency remote control to have the lift-truck operator open and close the safety gate.
Whether you are looking for a new safety gate or looking to add power or technology to an existing system, these ten points will help you ensure the device you purchase is the right one for your facility.

1. Are you looking for a new safety gate or do you want to add power and technology to an existing model?

2. If automation technology is already being used in your facility, it may be best to use the same technology on your safety gates to better capture data.

3. The location of the safety hazard dictates design and power location: is it on a production platform, in a pallet drop area, near a doorway, etc.

4. The amount of space available in and around the safety gate can not only determine the gate design, but also the location of the motor.

5. Material and how its loaded into the area matters; safety gates like our Open Top model work best when overhead equipment is used in the application. The material also can dictate the type of motor or technology used with the safety gate; for instance, flammable material will require an explosion proof motor.

6. Think about how the safety gate will be controlled; would it make sense for remote control from an AGV or fork-truck, or is there room for a push button station close to the gate. Many options are available.

7. Employees interact with both the material and safety gate; think about what kinds of data you’d like to track - do you want to capture data that follows material through a process or track how long material stays in the area. There are many options that can be configured.

8. The frequency the safety gate is opened and closed also can dictate the type of motor needed; if it’s rarely used, you may want to consider manual operation if you are not concerned with capturing data.

9. The climate in the area matters; extreme cold or hostile environments may need specific types of motors, and the safety gate itself may need to be constructed of stainless steel.

10. Wash-down areas also need waterproof motors, and the gate itself would likely need to be made of stainless steel.

Our team of engineers has custom designed hundreds of safety gate configurations with automation, and can help you determine the best plan for your facility and automation needs. Powering safety gate systems can help you see time and increase efficiencies while keeping your employees protected.
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