Safety Products Tips

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What is a machine guard?

Machine Guards

The machine guard is used to protect machinery and other equipment from vehicles. It keeps a barrier in between the machines-which may have moving parts, arms and cranes--and motorized traffic. Additionally it prevents the traffic from impacting the machinery in case of operator error or equipment malfunction.

When installing machine guards, it is important to consider the location of your power lines with regard to the machine guards. Have you evaluated the placement of your steel machine guards for electrical hazards?

The same machine guards that are supposed to protect your equipment could also turn into electrical conductors under the wrong circumstances. You may wish to consider rubber matting around your machine guards or other areas prone to moisture as a way to protect against such hazards, and a rubber coating over the machine guards to allow safe grasping.

Can I save money on safety products?

Safety Products and Tight Budgets

After making a series of purchases or a few large purchases of material handling equipment, you'll probably notice one or two items you overlooked in the initial round of spending. Some of these items can be as inconsequential as safety products such as traffic cones and signs. Even with safety products as basic as safety cones, it's important not to skimp on these items, but it's just as important to get the best value for your money.

For example, the "economy" safety cone comes taller and in greater quantity per carton than the "standard duty" version. If your needs are routine, consider an economy carton of five (for just over forty dollars!) as opposed to the heavy duty model which runs $25 on average for a single cone.

Check your needs in the areas you may be using these safety products--you may learn of some hidden savings just by purchasing the right products. It's never wise to skimp on railings, safety barriers and other safety products where immediate threats to safety are located. However, in areas where you simply need to protect fresh coats of paint or a temporary foot traffic inconvenience, the less expensive route may be hiding in your product catalogue.

How can I safeguard my work area from heavy traffic and potential collisions with columns and pipes?

Put Bumpers on Your Internal Structures!

Steel guards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are used to protect columns in the plant from hazards such as forklift impacts or other motorized vehicles coming in contact with the column. These are essentially bumpers for your columns in the factory, warehouse or plant.

The steel guards are painted safety yellow and will absorb the impact from vehicles and other "hits" to the column. This safety product comes complete with mounting hardware to properly install the steel guards. If you have a high amount of forklift or other motorized traffic near columns, pipes and other critical internal structures, you should consider steel guards for these areas to reduce costly damage to your infrastructure.

One impact may not leave a lasting problem, but over time the stress and wear on these structures can add up to a serious problem.

What is a fire blanket?

Giving Your Operation An Extra Safety Edge

Any material handling operation has its own share of fire hazards. Mounted fire extinguishers and spill kits are a given when it comes to material handling safety, but one safety item that is often overlooked is the fire blanket. This is used to quickly extinguish flames if a worker is exposed to fire. The fire blanket can also be used to snuff out small fires. It's not enough to simply hang these blankets in the same area as other material handling safety gear; workers should get training on how to properly - and safely - use a fire blanket as part of routine safety instructions. You may not think your operation has much of a fire hazard during normal operations, but vehicles can leak flammable oils and fluid, sparks can ignite packing materials, and similar situations have a way of catching workers by surprise. Having an additional weapon in your safety arsenal is well worth the expense.

What about safety signs?

Safety Products Part Two

Just as machinery is required to be properly outfitted with safety products including warning signs and load capacity indicators, your workplace in general will need safety products that clearly indicate hazards.

Does your work area have a "hard hat area" sign or anything to indicate overhead hazards? If you aren't advertising the hazards in the workspace you set yourself up for legal action of many different kinds, including lawsuits and other civil action. Your employees deserve to be warned about falling hazards, slipping hazards and other workplace hazards that may not be immediately obvious.

The display of safety products including large warning signs visible at a distance will drastically increase awareness of the dangers of the worksite.

Are all steel guards designed to withstand impact?

Steel Guard options

Some steel guards come 'spring-loaded' and contain beacons -- these steel guards are built only as warnings for when a forklift or other motor vehicle comes too close to the structure it protects. They are not designed to withstand impacts, just act as a warning.

These steel guards can be handy in areas where you cannot properly anchor a more heavy-duty safety solution, or where you need only a temporary measure against heavy traffic.

Sometimes, using a spotter in tight conditions isn't quite enough, especially where there is a 'blind corner' or other tricky navigational situation. The presence of these warning devices can be a major boost to your mishap prevention program.

How can a steel guard protect personnel?

The "Elbow" guard

Another type of steel guard is the elbow guard, which is specifically designed to protect the corners of buildings and other structures which lie in the area of heavy traffic. It's important to remember that structures like indoor trailer offices and other such spaces are not built to withstand heavy impacts from fork trucks, forklifts and other traffic.

The steel guard is in place to absorb impact in the event of a mishap, and also to act as a barrier. The steel guard may well be wrenched off its anchors by the impact, but the people inside the structure are given an extra layer of protection. Thanks to the steel guard, the structure can remain intact and the damage may be limited to replacement of the guard.

How can I use bollards to protect people as well as the structure?

The Trusty Bollard

Bollards are used to protect everything from door frames to corner offices. These are mounted in the floor or concrete outside the warehouse to provide a bumper type function against vehicles, dollies, fork trucks and other traffic that could collide with the structure or area the bollard protects.

The bollard will not prevent an accident, but the use of a bollard can help contain the accident or prevent an impact to the structure or equipment itself. If you wish to block foot traffic from areas with a great deal of motorized activity, installing a series of bollards in tandem with a barrier or safety sign can be a good move. You can protect those on foot, while providing a barrier from runaway equipment that keeps it from getting into a "populated" area of your factory, warehouse or dock.

What are some safety products designed for hazardous sites?

Safety Products for Hazardous Sites

Safety products such as safety rails, portable gates, bumper wraps and safety signs and sign stands are all important when keeping people safe near hazardous areas. Here is a breakdown of some of these safety products, courtesy of

  • Adjustable steel safety rails are used to create walking paths or as sliding gates for continuous handrail systems. Safety railing systems are available with or without a 4-inch high toeboard.
  • Portable gates are ideal for blocking equipment, personnel and entrances. They are lockable and have a collapsed width of 78 inches and an expanded width of 144 inches.
  • Bumper wraps are flexible UV-coated protective wrap for use in warehouses, fueling stations and many more applications.
  • A driver warning safety sign is a safety essential for work areas where vehicles are used. The safety sign is yellow polyethylene with black text.
  • Sign stands are designed to display signs anywhere. Sign stands are a surface mounted with a weighted base. They are 48 inches high with a base diameter of 18 inches and are available in either a chrome or painted finish.

How can I make sure my workplace is safe from chemical exposure?

Keeping Your Workplace Safe From Chemicals

According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), all chemical exposures have the potential for health consequences. Depending on the toxicology and concentration, the effects of chemical exposures can be immediate (such as acid burns) or long term and life-threatening (such as cancer). Chemicals can also cause physical damage to your work place in the form of explosions and fire and can also corrode your equipment. To ensure control of chemical hazards, you should do the following, courtesy of the DOE:

  • Cooperate with workers or worker representatives to form chemical safety teams. These teams can discuss all aspects of chemical safety including chemical safety signs in the workplace.
  • Substitute less hazardous chemicals when possible.
  • Provide ventilation and/or enclosure, as needed.
  • Ensure that all chemicals are in appropriate containers with labels and that Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are readily acceptable.
  • Provide exposure monitoring, including medical surveillance. Management should establish procedures for monitoring of workers who handle hazardous materials. If worker exposure exceeds acceptable DOE or OSHA levels, an investigation should be conducted and corrective actions instituted promptly. Based on the toxicology of the chemicals, exposed workers may need to undergo medical surveillance and periodic examinations.
  • Conduct regular training programs, and provide workers with information and instruction on the use and storage of chemicals. Let workers know why actions are needed that would otherwise be considered unnecessary or inconvenient.
  • Inform personnel of the signs and symptoms of control failures.
  • Provide and maintain personal protective equipment based on information contained in MSDSs and recommendations of safety and health professionals.
  • Include housekeeping and work practices.

Why use a crowd control barrier?

About Crowd Control Barriers

If you've ever been blocked from a restricted area, there was likely a railing separating you from where you stood and the off-limits zone. Though you might not think twice about them, industrial companies put a lot of thought into designing these crowd control barriers. That's because a crowd control barrier can save lives by keeping large crowds from dangerous areas and help prohibit a stampede situation that can occur from disorder. They are made to be lightweight, portable and interlocking to do their job well. They are made to be functional and also attractive. Companies such as have crowd control barriers available that weigh between 36 and 56 pounds. These are good products for crowd control at schools, convention centers, theme parks, stadiums and anywhere else where a large amount of people need to be kept in one area.

Interlocking crowd control barriers are a good idea because they create a safe and orderly way for people to enter a crowded area -- in a single file line. They also prohibit people from squeezing between the railings and exposing themselves to a hazardous area. According to, the safest crowd control barriers are made of galvanized, heavy-duty steel and are painted safety yellow for highest visibility. They are light enough to be easily moved when an event is over or the work is done and the crowds have gone.

What is a portable wash station?

The Mobile Handwash Station

Wash stations are commonly thought of for first aid purposes, but they do have equal value as a preventive safety measure. If your dock crew handles items such as car batteries, drums of oil, or other potentially caustic items, a wash station can prevent injuries sustained over time. A small amount of oil on a shirt sleeve, for example, may be a minor inconvenience, but over time it can work its way to the skin and cause irritation. Most material handling operations can't afford to install a wash station at every section of a dock or warehouse, but a portable wash station can definitely fit the bill in cases like these. Splinters, minor exposure to chemicals, and even simple dirt can turn into a work-stopping problem if left alone long enough. A portable wash station can be stored between work areas and utilized whenever needed. Best of all, many of these stations cost under a hundred dollars, a reasonable expenditure in workplace safety and comfort.

Why are warning lights a good idea?

Taking A Cue From The Military

In some military operations, a change in the lighting in a control room or command center can indicate an elevated safety or "threat" level. If your material handling operation routinely deals with hazardous material, you may wish to consider investing in a warning light system that is activated in times of a hazardous spill or other general threat to worker safety that doesn't require an evacuation--yet. A series of red warning lights in critical areas warns your crews to be on the lookout for a hazardous situation, and to seek further instructions from a foreman or crew boss on what to do. This is especially helpful in parts lockers, repair bays, and loading docks where a crew may be isolated from the rest of the building on a regular basis.

Should I invest in portable strobes as a safety device?

A Flashing Safety Device

Ever notice that safety barricades on the highway have flashing lights to attract your eye? The same principle applies with any temporary safety situation where you need to get immediate attention from those near a possible hazard. Portable strobe lights can provide early warning to unsuspecting workers near a spill containment area, an open hatch, or even a pile of freshly broken glass. If you need to erect a safety barrier, the strobe is a good way to provide extra protection in an area where workers aren't used to having restricted movement because of a barrier or spill containment wall. The flashing light will make them stop and look twice before proceeding, whether on foot or in a vehicle.

What is a truck seal?

Cargo Safety

When handling materials on the dock, there is rightfully a great deal of emphasis on worker safety; eye protection, fire prevention, first aid, and much more. But what about safeguarding your cargo, materials, and tools? If you load a truck in the dock area, do you have the equipment needed to safeguard the load until the truck hits the road? What about during rest stops and other times the truck may be unattended? No dock should be without a supply of truck seals. Truck seals can be applied to the door mechanism to prevent tampering or unauthorized entry into the vehicle. Many truck seals are numbered and can be printed with your company's name. These seals are not designed to replace a proper heavy-duty lock, but they are an excellent deterrent and a good way to detect theft and tampering once the seals have been put in place. This deterrent can also work as a bona fide safety measure when it comes to the security of your truck operators. A driver who spots a tampered seal can back off to phone the authorities rather than risk a look into the truck, which may be occupied by thieves.

OSHA requires safety features to be installed on gear similar to mine, but I'm not sure the rules apply to my equipment. Help!

Splitting Hairs On Safety Gear

OSHA and other regulatory bodies have many requirements for safety gear on specific pieces of equipment. While some laws mention this material handling equipment by name, often the rule of law applies to the type of work being done rather than the specific make and model of equipment named in the regulations. It's best to install all required safety features in compliance with the spirit of the regulation. OSHA's safety guidelines are subject to interpretation by lawmakers, especially in cases where there is no measurable risk to omit some kinds of safety gear. However, this is strictly up to OSHA officials to decide. You may still be cited for a violation of OSHA regs if you are found to be in willful non-compliance with the law. By deciding yourself which regs to comply with, you put your material handling operation in danger of being called on the carpet for violation of safety rules. Contact OSHA to address specific issues related to your needs.

How can I increase safety for my workers who need to lift items from shelves and other elevated storage?

The Step Ladder As Safety Tool

Many safety agencies describe a "risky lift" or a "manual material handling operation" as one that requires a worker to lift a load above the level of his or her heart. If you have a combination of mechanically-assisted and manual material handling tasks in your dock or warehouse, the addition of a three-step ladder can greatly reduce the chances of injury from simple retrievals from shelving and storage with multiple racks. If your workers can step up to items on the shelves, they aren't required to place their back muscles at risk from pulling a box or tool down from overhead. A small stepladder or stool may not look like a safety tool at first glance, but it's easy to see how it can contribute to your safety bottom line.

What should I buy in addition to a spill containment kit?

Hazardous Material Spills

If you deal with hazardous material in your warehouse, dock, or other material handling operation, you'll naturally want to have a supply of items that will help contain hazmat spills, protect workers doing the cleaning, and warn others away from a hazmat spill area. Spill containment kits that prevent the spread of liquids or solvents are a good start, but you should also purchase hazmat-absorbent brooms and even absorbent "socks" which can be used to safely gather spilled material. When purchasing these hazmat absorbent items, be sure to purchase those listed as good for "unknown" materials, adding an extra layer of peace of mind when you need to contain a spill. Never use an ordinary broom or other janitorial items to clean a hazmat spill, especially one that involves solvents and caustics. A non-hazmat-absorbent cleaning tool can spread contaminants, be destroyed by spilled solvents, or fail to completely clean the contaminated area.

What can I do to increase traction on my work floor?

Material Handling And "Slip Factors"

There are many hazards involved in material handling, but one of the simplest (and most likely) hazards has to do with floor traction. Employees can track snow and ice into the work area, spill liquids, and sometimes do nothing more than show up for work with a pair of shoes that are too worn for good traction. All of these things add up to a loss of traction, and a potential slip-and-fall hazard. In areas that are known to be frequently wet, a good rubber "traction mat" is an inexpensive addition to your safety plan. In areas where a mat is not practical, you can install traction tape instead. This tape is designed especially for areas with foot traffic which need some additional traction to prevent falls. Whichever option you go with, improving the footing for your employees will definitely cut down your liability and work stoppage time due to injuries.

What should I do to help my employees who speak english as a second language?

Bilingual Safety Training

There is a growing industry in safety training aids, and for material handling operations, there are multiple products that can make on-the-job safety training much simpler. When shopping for such safety training aids, it's important to look for bilingual DVDs and VHS tapes. Some companies offer these kits in English and Spanish separately, requiring safety officers to make two purchases instead of one. If you can find subtitled material, or DVDs with a language option, this is a much better value for your safety training dollar. Unfortunately, it's not safe to assume that a multi-lingual workplace has an equal understanding of English. Bi-lingual training aids insures a safe operation in the warehouse, on the dock, or on the job site.

What types of traffic cones are on the market?

All About Traffic Cones

One popular safety product that everyone knows but not many people probably think too hard about is traffic cones. Traffic cones are used to mark a road hazard or to direct traffic. According to, traffic cones should be designed for optimum visibility and maximum all-weather durability. It claims its traffic cones resist cracking and fading and will keep their original shape for many years. There are many different traffic cones such as the standard orange traffic cones, colored traffic cones and grabber traffic cones. You can order them from companies such as or Here is the difference between the different cones:

  • Orange traffic cone: basic traffic cone in an orange safety color which can come as one piece or as two pieces with a removable weighted bottom. There are 12-inch, 18-inch, 28-inch and 36-inch traffic cones.
  • Grabber traffic cone: taller and thinner than the basic orange traffic cone. A reinforced handle design can support the weight of stacked cones and bases without permanent distortion
  • Colored traffic cone: traffic cones don't have to be orange. They also come in colors such as white, yellow, blue and green. You can also have them stenciled, hot stamped or buy reflective collars and flag adapters for them.
  • Traffic cone toppers: these traffic signs are made to be put on top of your traffic cones. They fit standard traffic cones and are made to be graffiti, corrosion and rust resistant.

What are some examples of safety signs?

Examples of Safety Signs

Here are some examples of what's available in the way of material handling safety signs, courtesy of and

  • Small safety labels such as "Danger: Hot" and "Caution: Hearing Protection Required"
  • Fire and exit signs such as "Exit" and "Fire Extinguisher" and "Danger: No Smoking"
  • Floor signs such as "Warning: Forklift Traffic" and "Authorized Personnel Only" and "Safety Shoes Required"
  • Large facility and construction site signs such as "Danger: High Voltage" and "Danger: Hard Hat Area"
  • Warning safety signs such as "Warning: Chock Wheels Before Loading and Unloading"
  • Notice safety signs such as "Notice: Food or Drink Prohibited in This Area" and "Notice: Do Not Block Door"
  • Danger safety signs such as "Danger: Flammable" and "Danger: No Trespassing"
  • Caution safety signs such as "Caution: Open Door Slowly" and "Caution: Back in or Pull Out on Green Light Only"

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Lynne Christen