No other part of a building absorbs more punishment than the roof. Whether it’s the snow that accumulates in the winter or the rain and hail that pounds away on it during the spring and summer, a roof gets no relief from the elements. This makes it more susceptible to failure.

The best way to avoid issues is to have the roof inspected on a regular basis and perform preventative maintenance when necessary. The only way to do a thorough inspection is by having a trained employee or hired professional check for wet spots, signs of damage or aging material that could possibly fail.

Anytime someone climbs onto a commercial roof there is the potential for injury or even death. Professionals and employees who following proper safety measures and employ the right safety equipment can not only help prevent falls, it can make inspections and repairs less time consuming and more affordable in the long run.

Here are three roof safety maintenance tips to remember.

Safety Equipment

Roof Fall Protection SystemsThere is a great deal of commercially available safety equipment designed to prevent or mitigate falls. Not all of it may be necessary for your particular situation, but some of these devices are well suited to protecting staff during routine roof inspections and maintenance. There are two types of basic fall protection systems to consider an active system that requires a tie-off anchor, anchor on the roof or a passive system such as a guardrail.

Guardrails can help a fall from occurring unlike an active system which may stop a fall in progress but has a greater potential for injury. Two of the most common types of guardrails are non-penetrating guardrails and fixed based guardrails. Non-penetrating guardrails aren’t secured which eliminates the need to make holes in the roof and engineering. They are easily installed and fit the contour of any roof. Fixed based guardrails are attached to the roof by brackets. These guardrails typically don’t require any on-site fabrication and can be fixed to the side or surface of the roof. Both types of guardrails are available in a variety materials such as steel and aluminum.

Follow Procedures

It is important that everyone in your organization knows whom is and isn’t allowed access to the roof. It is better if only a limited number of people share this responsibility. Keep track of the keys that are issued to these individuals and stress that they are never to be given to anyone with authorization to be on the roof.

Safety procedures should be clearly established and adhered to with no exceptions. Even outside contractors and vendors should be bound by the same procedures that your staff is required to follow.

Training

Training should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure procedures are up to date and fresh in the minds of employees who will be conducting inspections and performing maintenance. They should understand how all of the safety equipment functions. The layout of the roof should familiar to them to ensure they don’t encounter any unexpected hazards in the course of roof inspections and maintenance. A one-time training will not sufficient to prepare your people for all of the situations they may encounter.

Warehouses and manufacturing facilities are, on their best days, structures that function like well-oiled machines. Like most machines, though, there’s always a chance for something to go wrong.

When there’s an issue at an industrial facility, the ramifications can be shocking to say the least. In a best case scenario, one only has to worry about a loss of profits. At the worst, one may have to deal with a catastrophic loss of life.

That’s why it’s so important to deal with preventable issues before they become real problems. One such issue that’s incredibly easy to deal with is the potential for fall injuries.

Fall Prevention

Slip and fall injuries are the bane of any workplace. All it takes is one misplaced step for an employee to tumble to the ground, and the level of damage that one can sustain in such a fall can be far greater than you might expect.

In a warehouse or shipping context, a slip and fall can be even worse – a worker might collide with machinery or find himself or herself tumbling off of a loading dock. Fortunately, a bit of foresight can help you to prevent some of the worst-case scenarios from occurring. A few useful products can literally make the difference between life and death.

Guard Rails

Perhaps the most important piece of safety equipment you can put into place in a facility with a loading bay or dock is a side mounted guard rail. There’s nothing fancy about them, and the humble guard rail really hasn’t changed much in the past several decades. There’s a reason for that, of course – guard rails are simple and effective.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.49.26 AMGuardrails specifically designed for loading docks are side mounted versus top mounted to decrease the possibility of trips and allow you to keep valuable floor space. The railings can also be removable to allow for a bigger openings as needs may arise.

Putting up a rail can help you to prevent an individual who’s not paying attention from falling off a dock, while providing guidance for those who might have their sight otherwise impeded. Simply putting up the railings can help you drastically reduce the potential for an accident.

Safety Gates

Safety gates are likewise quite useful in industrial settings. By creating a simple point of entry and exit, you can cordon off areas that might be dangerous.

Gates may not always prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to a dangerous area, but they serve as a valuable warning – individuals who go through gates are generally cognizant of the fact that they’re going through a barrier.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.05.49 AMIf you’ve got a large loading dock, a split opening cantilever gate might be the best way for you to impede unauthorized access while still keeping a wide berth open for materials heading out to the trucks. These gates are simple and easy to use, but provide a wide access point when they need to be opened.

Safety gates that swing inwards have a large turning radius and take up a lot of real estate in your shipping area. Vertical of cantilever gates allow you to keep your floor space and still give you the benefits of a fall protection gate.

If you’re looking for something a bit more static or that is a bit easier to move, a single opening cantilever gate can do the job just as well. It’s difficult to go wrong with either choice, though, as they can prevent falls through providing a simple blockage point.

The Result: More Protection

If you want to provide your industrial facility with a greater level of fall protection, your first and best set of tools will be barriers. Whether you are looking for a permanent or permeable solution, the truth of the matter is that taking these small steps can make your workplace safer for both you and for those who work for you.

mezzanineAdding mezzanines can be a relatively inexpensive way to nearly double your warehousing area. However, they bring with them a number of safety challenges. Many solutions are available, some of them generally more expensive than others, and some safer overall than others. This article should help you to think through the pros and cons of the different types of gates so you can make the right selection for your particular situation.

We just tie-off…

tieoffA lot of businesses choose to use an active system, such as anchors for tie-offs because of convenience or cost. However, the requirements for using an active system are very different from a passive fall protection system like a Mezzanine gate.

Active systems can be easy to use incorrectly. That’s why employees must be specially trained and scheduled for regular renewal of training. In the instance of using lifelines while trying to unload and move product on a mezzanine, it’s also easy for the lines to become entangled in the product causing loss of productivity and potential hazards.

Additionally, active systems need to be inspected and re-certified annually, they have to be engineered by someone trained and certified as an OSHA “Competent Person,” and you must have a well thought out rescue plan in place.

These are just a few reasons we believe a mezzanine gate is going to be safer, more productive, and less expensive in the long run.

mg-horizSimplicity

The simplest and most common type of mezzanine gate has to be the horizontal opening gate. This type of gate functions as a piece of your guardrail system when closed, and when you want to open it, it simply rolls back along the ground leaving a gap for loading and unloading. One of its advantages is that if an especially wide opening is needed for your application, it can be pretty straightforwardly customized to accommodate.

However, this design does have its safety drawbacks. For example, while it’s open, if a worker should get too close, it’s the equivalent of having no railing system or protection of any kind; just a sheer drop! The same danger arises if workers take short-cuts and begin unloading pallets before closing the gate, or if a worker thoughtlessly walks alongside the danger zone while she’s rolling the gate open manually.

mg-vertLimited Real Estate

The vertical gate is perfect for locations where you don’t have enough space to accommodate a horizontal opening. This type of gate raises to allow the offloading and then lowers again. In general the price is a little higher for the vertical gate over the horizontal gate, but not by much.

The design has some of the same safety drawbacks as the horizontal gate, in that while it’s open, workers who are too close are in danger; and this can be especially true for opening and closing a vertical gate manually. For increased safety you may like to opt for a powered system that workers can operate from a safe distance.

mg-selfclosSpring Loaded

This type of self-closing safety gate is actually pushed open by the pallet as it’s being offloaded onto the mezzanine, and then springs shut when the pallet is removed. This is also a time saver as the forklift operator can push the product through without needing a person to operate the gate.  Additionally, in general, it’s the least expensive solution you can implement.

The only potential safety drawback occurs after product is removed, because if the empty pallet itself is not also removed it will hold the gate open. These kinds of potential safety hazards can be dealt with by making sure your employees are properly trained.

mg-dualAlways Closed = Always Safe

The dual gate is ideal for pallet loading and unloading. It has two gates that operate in tandem: while one is open, the other is closed. This mezzanine gate is the safest for your workers in that it leaves so little room for error. While the pallet is being loaded onto the dock, the worker is behind a closed gate. When the worker opens the gate to get to the pallet, the opening on the edge of the mezzanine is automatically closed off.

These gates can be a little more pricey than some of the other solutions, but, as they say, you get what you pay for.  The dual gate allows workers to confidently work faster and harder without endangering themselves because the safety factor is automatic.

However, the dual gate is not always ideal. Because they are a custom fabricated product, the lead time may be a little more than what you want to deal with (generally somewhere around 8 days). Additionally if you need an opening wider than around 100 inches, you may need to consider a different solution.

Take Charge

According to OSHA, fall protection hazards are the number one violation they have to deal with. Making sure your workers are safe on the mezzanine is one way you deal with those hazards before any problems occur.

Peter KaviaBy Peter Kavia
CAI Safety Systems
Peter has been a safety expert for almost 20 years and is certified as a Qualified Fall Protection expert. He currently holds the title of Director of Operations for CAI Safety Systems, a custom turnkey fall protection company in Southern California.