Fall Protection in Distribution and Fulfillment Centers

Implementing OSHA-compliant safety solutions in distribution centers improves safety and enhances productivity.

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Published on: February 13, 2024

Distribution and fulfillment centers have existed at least since the days of frontier trading posts. What the pioneer purveyors of pelts and saltpeter did not have to deal with, though, was online ordering and the expectation of instant gratification.

Today’s distribution and fulfillment centers are fast-paced workplaces that prize efficiency and productivity. To help meet these goals, however, centers must ensure worker safety and maintain fully functional environmental systems.

For the control freaks.

Floor and shelf space inside a distribution and fulfillment center are at a premium. Hence, the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment and other building systems are typically installed on the rooftop. Since regular inspections and routine maintenance are necessary to help avoid repairs and downtime, workers must have safe controlled access to the roof and be confident that they can move about the rooftop safely.

For safe roof access, an OSHA-compliant hatch kit will allow workers to reach the roof through a hatch surrounded by guardrails and a self-closing gate. This will prevent falling back through open hatches. When used inside at ground-level, self-closing gates are the safe and complaint way to provide a way through a passive or collective solutions while reminding staff they are entering a potentially dangerous area.

The skylight is not for falling.

Skylights bring the radiance of natural sunshine upon the workers inside, but they are a fall hazard from the outside. In fact, according to OSHA regulations 1926.501(b)(4)(i) and 1926.501(b)(4)(ii), a skylight is considered a hole in the roof that must be protected. There are two easy means available:

  1. Skylight Guardrail – a freestanding system that surrounds the skylight without penetrating the roof membrane. It is best constructed of galvanized steel or aluminum for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance.
  2. Skylight Screens – attach to various skylights, including curb-style, standing-seam metal roof, and rib/corrugated metal roof. They are also available in galvanized steel or aluminum.

Over and over again.

A modern distribution and fulfillment center’s rooftop can present other trip hazards, such as ductwork, cables, piping, and conduits. Workers need to traverse the rooftop without worrying about these obstructions. Rooftop crossovers use non-penetrating bases, guardrails, and anti-slip treads for steps and walkways that enable workers to avoid obstacles.

Platforms work.

The need to cross over obstacles and work at height does not only take place on the rooftop of a distribution and fulfillment center. Employees working around conveyor systems often need shorter safe routes and work paths over lines.

Common work at height in distribution tasks may also include reach elevated racks, shelves, and other storage areas. Furthermore, routine maintenance, repair, and service checks can place work at precarious heights when conducted from ladders which can be cumbersome, inefficient, and even dangerous.

“Fixed” or “static” work platforms are ideal for where tasks are frequent. To achieve the portability of a ladder, however, mobile work platforms—equipped with heavy-duty braking casters—provide the needed flexibility and safety.

Like many goods at a distribution and fulfillment center, “off-the-shelf” work platforms that are easy to assemble on-site are available. However, facilities may prefer a custom solution tailored to their specific needs. Custom solutions are also easy to design, configure, and install.

Work platforms take these forms of work and make them, OSHA/ANSI compliant, safer and more productive tasks.

Stop in the name of safety.

Forklifts are essential at distribution and fulfillment centers to load, unload, transport, and stack products throughout the building. Yet, they present risks to workers and the physical plant. For example, what if a forklift collides with a storage rack and topples goods?

Safety barriers can help protect the facility, forklift drivers, and anyone nearby who might be injured. A wide range of safety barriers are available, constructed of high-grade steel and powder-coated in “safety yellow.”

  • Wall and Machinery Guards
  • Column Guards
  • Overhead Door Guards
  • Pallet Rack Guards
  • Floor Guide Rails
  • Corner Guards

Which solution is best for you?

If you are responsible for rooftop fall protection and worker safety at distribution and fulfillment centers, stock your inventory with safety solutions by contacting Flexible Lifeline Systems. We can discuss your needs and concerns about regulatory compliance, visit your site to conduct a safety audit and map out a plan of action. Our services can include as little or as much as you need, from design, engineering, and fabrication to installation, training, and other support.

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