Food Processing Environments: 4 Questions to Help You Select the Right Fall Protection Equipment

The environment in your facility is a big factor in operations, from manufacturing to material handling. Did you know that the facility environment is also a factor when it comes to the type of safety system that should be installed to keep your employees safe?

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Aaron ConwayAaron Conway

The environment in your facility is a big factor in operations, from manufacturing to material handling. Did you know that the facility environment is also a factor when it comes to the type of safety system that should be installed to keep your employees safe?

Food processing applications often have special sanitary and temperature requirements, and without the proper model and material, the safety system could be compromised or corroded. When there is corrosion or compromised equipment within the operations, the materials or paint may contaminate your product, or the safety system can fail, increasing the risk to your employees.

Hostile environments like those in food processing vary from facility to facility. Some feature extreme cold or hot temperatures, while others may utilize frequent washing or rinsing. Employees are often working in these environments to complete processing or material handling tasks, and may work from elevated areas, especially with applications featuring mixing or blending platforms. All elevated platforms on which employees work require safety devices to protect them from falling — these solutions must also be able to withstand the environment.

The key to installing a safety device that will hold up in a food processing environment, and function properly when needed, is to know your facility environment and your specific sanitation requirements. And keep in mind, it’s not just getting a stainless steel solution; some designs work better than others. Ideally, the safety device would have as few moving parts as possible, and be able to cleaned without allowing water to enter the structure where it cannot fully drain.

When looking to secure areas in facilities with hostile environments, it’s important to keep these questions in mind as they will help you select the right safety device for your facility and application. Give this information to a qualified manufacturer who specializes in fall protection solutions.

1. Is the location of the safety device one that features extreme temperatures?

If your pallet drop area is located in a freezer or refrigerated warehouse, you’ll want a safety device with few moving parts, such as a pivot safety gate. Make sure the gates use connections and hardware that can withstand the temperatures, too. If they cannot, the safety device and environment could be compromised.

2. Is the area frequently rinsed with water or another substance?

When rinsing is involved, it’s key to select a safety gate model that has few moving parts and uses stainless hardware. Consider purchasing equipment in all stainless steel construction, with stainless hardware for the longest lasting solution.

If your application involves caustic material, galvanized steel or aluminum gates may be required. Safety gates can also be constructed from these materials to match the other equipment in the facility.

3. What are your sanitary requirements?

In a food processing environment, you need to review all pallet drop areas with your own sanitation requirements, and make sure the company providing your safety solutions understands your facility’s needs. Ensure the design and construction will prevent debris from entering the system.

Some facilities may have sanitation requirements that do not allow any type of paint, whether powder coat or wet. Some of these areas may be able to use mild steel equipment with specialty finishes such as Steel-It Paint, which includes FDA-approved stainless steel pigments. For food or processing plants it is imperative to review the specific sanitation requirements for each area and to communicate those requirements to the safety gate supplier.

Many processing plants feature applications in which ingredients are moving through the pallet drop area. In these instances, stainless steel is often the best choice as it allows material to be washed down and cleaned without concern of flaking or chipping paint contaminating the ingredients.

4. If power operation is necessary, can the motor handle the environment?

When power operation is needed for a safety gate located within an environment that involves food processing of any kind, you may need a sealed motor. Ensure the safety equipment provider can install such a motor. In addition, look for built-in safety features and controls that can be used, such as frequency remotes or caution alarms.

Aaron Conway is President of Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, Inc., a company that provides safety gate systems for fall protection in industrial applications.

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