For some, job safety is one of those back-of- mind things one hopes will jump to the forefront at the right time to stave off danger. For others, like Donna Muniz, job safety is a way of life. Her job is to keep employees working safely in the Piscataway production plant operated by the cosmetics giant, L'Oreal.
One day, a tragic accident that happened in a nearby automotive distribution facility, got her attention. A forklift retrieving a pallet from a high racking level inadvertently dislodged the pallet behind it. The pallet fell and struck a man working in the adjacent aisle. The injury was fatal. Muniz didn't want to face that situation at L'Oreal.
She called a safety meeting with all the forklift drivers and told them of the tragedy at the automotive facility. She wanted them to understand how the accident happened and recognize the importance of due caution in the warehouse.
Muniz also researched several possible solutions for racking security systems and began accepting quotations from prospective suppliers. But after a chance visit to a Home Depot store, she got a new idea from the heavy duty plastic netting installed behind its racks.
Her inquiry led her to Karen Slater, the sales manager for Industrial Netting of Minneapolis, Minn. It makes “RackGuard,” an engineered thermoplastic net, or grid, with the tensile strength and dimensional stability to keep warehoused goods from falling out of racking.
After talking over the needs at L'Oreal, Slater referred Muniz to Chip Merritt, vice president sales & marketing at J & D Associates in Middletown, Pa., a designer, manufacturer and installer of motorized storage systems and related material handling products. Merritt showed Muniz a unique approach to L'Oreal's safety concerns.
“Donna really wasn't happy with the choices she had seen so far,” he recalls. “They were all based on traditional 8 × 10-ft. steel grids screwed flush to the back of the pallet racks. We discussed combining the RackGuard plastic mesh with steel pallet stops that, in effect, create a vertical rail system standing off three inches behind the shelves. The plastic mesh attaches to the pallet stops.”
With the mesh and stops recessed back from the racking, a conventional 48-inch pallet has room to balance evenly on standard 42-inch shelves. The stops prevent pallets from pushing material off the shelf in the row behind, while the netting ensures that loose items can't fall into the next aisle or into the flue area between racks.
The mesh's dimensional stability helps it hold its shape after absorbing impacts. The zip-tie connectors that attach it to the pallet stops are equally strong and help distribute impact loads evenly.
Repairs or relocation can be accomplished with a pair of shears and a set of zip ties. It is equally easy for J&D to service L'Oreal.
“Instead of handling bulky steel panels,” Merritt explains, “we can pre-cut the plastic netting to whatever size we need before we go in; we just tag it for the assemblers and ship it out in rolls.”
After the installation, forklift operators at L'Oreal have a new level of confidence, according to Muniz.
“Our forklift operators say loading and unloading pallets is a bit easier now,” she says. “And they feel like L'Oreal management really does care about their safety.”