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Preventing industrial “blind spot” accidents with safety mirrors

Monday, October 9, 2017

Customizable convex mirrors and domes promote employee safety in warehouses and loading docks by increasing visibility

Though many types of safety equipment exist, one of the most effective and economical approaches is preventing collisions with special industrial safety mirrors and domes that are shatter resistant, weatherproof and can be customized to fit the unique needs of the industrial environment.

The use of these devices is an approach already widely accepted in many workplace safety programs and due to its simplicity, affordability and customizable properties, convex mirrors and mirrored domes are rapidly gaining traction among industrial safety managers worldwide.

However, the selection of convex mirrors can be far from a straightforward process. Often, one-size-fits all, standard catalog units will not suffice. The types of vehicles used in the space, pedestrians, traffic flow factors, and how aisles intersect can all play a role in determining which mirrors and domes best serve the organizations’ workplace safety needs. Other issues that may need to be addressed include how easily the mirror mounts to a specific surface, upholds in severe weather conditions or resists shattering.

In these situations, special options or customization of mirrors may be required to help walking employees and vehicle operators optimally “see around corners” to improve safety at active aisle intersections and loading docks.

Dangerous work zones

Safety is often compromised in facilities when both employees operating heavy equipment like forklifts encounter stock pickers or others on foot at dangerous intersections or blind spots. The ramifications of a workplace collision are great: physical injury, death, potential litigation, loss of productivity and even higher insurance rates are all possible consequences of employees not having greater visibility in the workplace. Even a near miss or a “close call” can be serious. Many of the large fulfillment warehouses have “runners” who blindly run into each other, while on foot at rack intersections, causing severe injury.

“If someone is carrying product, chemicals, or items involved in production, a near miss can cause them to fall or drop a what they are holding, which can lead to all kinds of issues,” says David Johnson, Merchandising Manager at Northern Safety Co., a supplier of industrial safety equipment.

While some safety precautions already exist in such environments, none are foolproof. For example, for forklifts and other vehicles that “beep” loudly when in reverse, the noise inside and outside a busy facility can often drown out such warnings.

“When vehicle operators drive in reverse, they are often looking the opposite way that they are traveling,” says Johnson. “The noise level at production plants can also distract workers. That’s when the risk of an industrial accident multiplies – when employees cannot adequately see or hear vehicles or foot traffic at intersections and other high risk areas.”

As a solution, industrial safety mirrors and domes provide a vital secondary level of visual protection at locations where the collision risk is greatest. To accommodate a range of needs, many options are available. This includes not only a wide variety of mirror and dome sizes, shapes, and angles of visibility, but also shatter resistant acrylic and polycarbonate materials, “all weather” coatings for indoor or outdoor use, as well as high visibility safety markings designed to attract attention.

For instance, in outdoor loading dock areas a standard mirror tends to blend into the background when a forklift exits a trailer. In such cases, convex mirrors with high visibility safety borders, such as those by Se-Kure Domes and Mirrors, a Sturgis, Michigan based manufacturer of industrial safety mirrors, can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

While the company’s Safety Border Convex Mirror offers 160° viewing, the caution stripes on the border draw immediate attention to the mirrored viewing area. This provides additional safety at corner and “T” intersections outdoors. Strategically positioning these mirrors at the ends of warehouse aisles and outside corners can also help to prevent accidents at blind spots in indoor spaces as well.

Compared to conventional glass mirrors, acrylic mirrors are much more durable, lightweight, and fade-proof with top quality metalizing. Second surface printing also protects the safety border from scratching or discoloring. Mirrored domes also have a high visibility safety border option as well.

Endless options to meet workplace needs
Indoors, mirrored domes in a variety of configurations can provide even greater visibility around corners. For instance, although Se-Kure Domes and Mirrors’ 90° quarter domes provide viewing for corner intersections, 180° mirrored half domes allow excellent viewing at T-intersections, and 360° mirrored domes enable enhanced viewing at 4-way or circular intersections.

To eliminate blind spots around machinery and in areas with low ceilings, mirrors with a “roundtangular” shape can allow a wide viewing angle with a minimal vertical mirror height, allowing the mirror to be placed as high as possible on the wall.

Specialized convex or flat mirrors with handles and wheels can also promote safety by allowing employees to easily inspect under cars, trucks, and heavy equipment without having to climb under the vehicles or elevate them. Options include a LED flashlight for better viewing, and a heavy-duty articulated wheel carriage that enables tilting the mirror without the wheels leaving the surface.

Economy models are also available without wheels for quickly searching high areas, such as racks or shelves without having to climb a ladder.

To promote plant safety, slogans can be printed on a mirror’s surface such as “meet the person most responsible for your safety” as well as company information or logos. This option is available for convex, dome and flat mirrors.

According to Johnson, most of the situations that pose a danger to worker safety are usually solved with an out-of-the-box solution. However, when customization of the mirror, dome, or mounting hardware is required, few companies are equipped to make the necessary modifications.

“We’ve found that Se-Kure has a mirror or dome for virtually all applications, and when customization or modification is required, they can do that too,” says Johnson, who relies on Se-Kure’s integrated capabilities that include pressure forming, vacuum forming, vacuum metalizing, laser cutting, and digital 5 color printing.

According to Johnson, to optimize safety, Se-Kure offers a number of different hardware and mounting attachments to allow for best mirror and dome placement, even in challenging environments.

While industrial safety mangers typically gauge the value of a product by the number of accidents, incidents, or even near misses they record, what this tracking does not account for is the amount of traffic that is kept safe each day by industrial mirrors and domes.

“The true value of such mirrors is how economically they can help to prevent accidents and enhance production uptime,” concludes Johnson.

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