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  • Writer's pictureSpima

Safety in the Distribution center

Modern day distribution centers (DC) are intensely busy, high traffic environments, with a multitude of mechanical handling equipment travelling alongside personnel and among tall and heavily loaded storage systems. Naturally this is considered a high risk environment for your people not only because of the possibility of injuries arising from direct impact with forklifts but also, because of common impacts that forklifts will have with the storage systems or any machinery installed.

Preventative protection is therefore of paramount importance to avoid any costly, or more importantly, fatal accidents. Indeed the need to wear PPE clothing is the primary concern (footwear, helmets and high visibility vests etc) but in this article we are going to focus on the protective barrier side of things. Many variations of barriers exist in the market today, however, there is one company that is innovating and leading the way with noticeable difference; A-Safe.

A-Safe barriers are a UK based company with a very different approach. They design and manufacture polymer barriers that replace the typical steel ones and practically makes them obsolete. Steel barriers deform, corrode, rust and if an impact is of considerable force will transfer the energy to the floor bolts and eventually damage the floor.

A-Safe's revolutionary polymer mix eliminates those drawbacks that as the barrier is able to absorb the impact by momentarily deforming and then straightening (like a rubber band). This means no damage to the material you are protecting, the forklift or vehicle you are driving is unscathed and more importantly no damage to the floor is done, the part that is the most costly to repair. Added to that, the corrosion, and rust is eliminated making it ideal the food, beverage and pharma industries as well as for outside use or areas where there are extreme conditions such as high humidity and extreme temperatures. A truly environmentally friendly product with a much reduced carbon footprint.

Below we will outline some basic applications of where this complete and well thought out product range can be applied to.

Pedestrian segregation

How many DC's or factories have you visited whereby you walk alongside fast moving mechanical handling equipment? Indeed the risk for fatal injuries are huge hence why the pedestrian barrier does a first class job in segregating people from machines. Optional swing gates are available in order to allow crossing and access to other areas.

Traffic Segregation

Areas with a high presence of fast moving mechanical handling equipment travelling near expensive production machinery or electrical cabinets need to be secured from impacts. The traffic barrier is a must if you are protecting against such equipment that will cost you dearly in downtime. Traffic barriers come in several diameters and heights, ranging from the ground level, to medium and then high level barrier. Combinations are also possible, such as the double barrier shown in the photo below and with an optional bollard end.

A combination of traffic and raised pedestrian barrier for complete protection is also an option.

For heavy duty applications you should consider the Atlas barrier as shown in the photo below. Atlas barriers are common in many airports throughout the globe as they are applications that require premium protection. 


For any protection needed at edges of areas that aren't free to install lengths of traffic barriers, such as the frames of expensive high speed doors for example, bollards are common place. These also come in various diameters and heights with an option of an external bollard skin, a loose piece of hollow polymer tube that sits around the bollard and can slip and rotate on impact thereby diffusing it even further.

Rack protection

Probably the most overlooked aspect of safety in a DC is the protection of your storage systems. Storage systems in modern day DC's often exceed 10m in height and can have multiple levels of pallets exceeding 1 ton each. This is a dangerous affair when you have heavy machinery loading and unloading them throughout the day. One unfortunate maneuver and the racking can collapse like a domino, especially if it is manufactured from low quality steel, or the upright is already damaged (damaged uprights can decrease the strength of the racking system by up to 40%). The video below shows how a knock from an impact can bring the entire system down.

Installing quality barriers at the end of each row is the primary consideration as that is the most vulnerable part. End of rack rows are also assumed in underpasses where the first beam level is raised above the height of the forklift and allows for cross traffic into the access aisles for goods storage and retrieval.

For your posts a recommended minimum height should be 400mm for normal access pallet racks and 600-1000mm for more vulnerable systems such as drive in racking. In addition, drive in systems should also have barriers installed on their side to protect against lateral impacts. The new iFlex rack guard is a revolutionary product for this purpose and is tested to the most stringent EN standards.

Column Protection

Building columns as well as masts are in great danger of being hit by moving vehicles so it is of paramount importance to protect these areas, especially since any impact to them could cause devastating damage.

This can be achieved with either heavy duty bollards or pedestrian barrier posts that are interlinked, depending always on the size of the vehicle you are protecting against. 

An Atlas version exists in the form of an octagon providing the ultimate security and is commonly used in airport flood light masts, such as this example in Gatwick airport illustrates.

Door protection

Impacts on doors can be costly not only in damages but also in downtime if it is not accessible for a length of time. Instead of having normal bollards however, Asafe have achieved full damage prevention with the design of the height restrictor - this offers full all around perimeter protection of the doors.

Of course they can be supplied in a standalone version as well.

Bespoke solutions

Although we have covered the most common applications for protection, one is not limited just to the above. The imagination can take over and with A-Safe's modular and flexible design you can dream up any kind of solution to offer the ultimate protection. 

The image below shows the protection of a water tank

While this solution offers protection against the fall of stacked kegs in a brewery.

Impact demonstration

You thought I'd put a load of nice looking barriers without proof that they actually perform many times better than a steel one? I usually like to save the best for last so enjoy the video and hope you'll realise that the best type of safety is the pro-active one. Act today and prevent unwanted accidents tomorrow.

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