Shoptalk: Vertical Conveyor Safety Gates and Enclosures
A guide to interlocks, gates and enclosure panels for safety and functionality
Vertical reciprocating conveyors—or VRCs—make it easy to move materials between levels, such as onto a mezzanine or down to basement storage. As you might expect, this equipment involves enclosures and access features for optimum safety. In this installment of our Shoptalk series, employee-owner Christine Perry offers a quick look at these features.
Side enclosures protect the VRC and your people
On any facing where it’s not enclosed within a wall, your VRC will require protection. Any side that employees can walk right up to, which isn’t used for loading and unloading, must have enclosures that are at least 8’ high and can deflect a ball at least 2” in diameter. This guideline meets most state requirements, but those requirements vary, and if the application or building codes mandate it, VRCs can be built with full-height enclosures. The carriage will also need roll-off panels on any open side.
Access gates with features for enhanced safety
The gate is the part of the lift your employees will interact with the most, so it’s the component that needs the most consideration as you specify a VRC. Choosing the right gate means working with the lift will be easier and faster. Here are some of the most common gate types.
Swing-style gates, which swing out from the carriage like a standard door, are the most common choice. They’re available in single or double styles. You can use a single gate on carriages up to 5’ wide, and they go up to 6’ wide overall. Double gates are available in standard sizes up to 8’ overall width on 7’ carriages, and 8’ to 11’ overall width when mounted on 10’ carriages.
To keep the gate in place for safety, swing gates use a keeper interlock mounted on the panels. When the gate closes, the keeper makes electrical contact, allowing the lift to move. While the lift is moving, the gate will not open, which closes off the open lift shaft.
Vertical sliding gates
You have a couple of options for sliding gates—vertical and horizontal. Vertical sliding gates slide up and down and thus take up minimal floor space, but you’ll need adequate overhead space on the upper level for these gates to work. Standard models operate by counterweight, but a powered option is available.
You can choose between single or double panel vertical gates. To calculate the necessary overhead space, add 6’6” to the height of your tallest load for single gates, and 4’6” for bi-panel gates (although keep in mind that your state’s codes may vary).
Just like swing-style gates, sliding gates use a keeper interlock for safety, mounted on the side of the gate panel. When the gate is closed, it activates a sensor, allowing the lift to operate and keeping the gate closed while the carriage is in motion.
Horizontal sliding gates
Because they slide to the side, horizontal gates use a lot more floor space than vertical gates, but they’re perfect for the right application. Just like vertical gates, they’re available in single or bi-panel models, and they use a keeper mounted on the panel. Once that electrical contact is made when the gate is closed, the lift can move, and the gate is physically held closed to deny access to the open lift shaft.
Other gate types
You have some other options for access gates if needed for your application. Some of these include fire doors, acoustic doors and roll-up doors for a clean look and heavy-duty durability. As long as they include appropriate safety interlocks, these options are all fine.
You might also want to consider adding gates to the carriage itself. If, for example, you load a pallet jack full of loose cartons onto the lift and one falls off during transit, it might get jammed and cause a lot of damage. If what you’re lifting warrants it, you can include gates on the carriage to keep the lift running smoothly.
Safety features are part of what makes VRCs a valuable asset to your facility—they protect your people and your equipment, lift after lift. Understanding your options for enclosures and gates will help you ensure you get the right fit for your operation to make sure the VRC works its best.
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- A Jargon-Free Guide to Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor Specification
- Vertical Pallet Transport: Scissor Lifts vs. VRCs vs. Forklift Loading
- Vertical Pallet and Package Lifts