Title:
Flexible safety edge guard for moveable platforms
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An elongated, flexible safety guard for use with moveable platforms is provided. The platform, which the safety guard is mounted thereto, has a support frame and is capable of moving in ascending and descending directions. In one embodiment, the safety guard comprises: (i) a substantially “U-shaped” upper portion, and (ii) a lower portion that extends from the U-shaped upper portion. The U-shaped upper portion has opposing side wall segments that are connected together. The side wall segments define an open space therebetween for receiving the support frame of the platform. In one embodiment, the lower portion of the safety guard has a “J-shaped” configuration.



Inventors:
Herbert, Joseph F. (East Greenwich, RI, US)
Application Number:
10/741626
Publication Date:
07/08/2004
Filing Date:
12/19/2003
Assignee:
HERBERT JOSEPH F.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65G69/28; B66F7/06; B66F17/00; E04F19/02; E04F21/18; (IPC1-7): E04C2/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
QUAST, ELIZABETH A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BARLOW, JOSEPHS & HOLMES, LTD. (PROVIDENCE, RI, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An elongated, flexible safety guard for a platform having a support frame, the platform being capable of moving in ascending and descending directions, comprising: (i) a substantially U-shaped upper portion having opposing side wall segments, the side wall segments being connected and defining an open space therebetween for receiving the support frame of the platform, and (ii) a lower portion extending from the U-shaped upper portion, the lower portion having opposing side wall segments, the side wall segments being connected and defining a linear channel therebetween, wherein the flexible safety guard compresses upon contacting an object lying in its path as the platform moves in a descending direction.

2. The safety guard of claim 1, wherein the safety guard comprises a flexible plastic material.

3. The safety guard of claim 2, wherein the safety guard comprises a polyvinyl chloride.

4. The safety guard of claim 1, wherein at least one of the side wall segments of the upper portion and lower portion has an undulating, wave-like structure.

5. An elongated, flexible safety guard for a platform having a support frame, the platform being capable of moving in ascending and descending directions, comprising: (i) a substantially U-shaped upper portion having opposing side wall segments, the side wall segments being connected and defining an open space therebetween for receiving the support frame of the platform, and (ii) a substantially J-shaped lower portion extending from the U-shaped upper portion, the lower portion having a vertically extending side segment and a hook segment, wherein the flexible safety guard compresses upon contacting an object lying in its path as the platform moves in a descending direction.

6. The safety guard of claim 5, wherein the safety guard comprises a flexible plastic material.

7. The safety guard of claim 6, wherein the safety guard comprises a polyvinyl chloride.

8. The safety guard of claim 5, wherein at least one of the side wall segments of the upper portion and the vertically extending side segment of the lower portion has an undulating, wave-like structure.

9. An elongated, flexible safety guard for a platform having a support frame, the platform being capable of moving in ascending and descending directions, comprising a vertically extending segment connected to a hook segment, the segments defining a substantially J-shaped structure, wherein the safety guard compresses upon contacting an object lying in its path as the platform moves in a descending direction.

10. An elongated, flexible safety guard for a platform having a support frame, the platform being capable of moving in ascending and descending directions, comprising a vertically extending segment having one end and an opposing end, the opposing end having a looped structure defining a linear channel that extends along the length of the safety guard, wherein the safety guard compresses upon contacting an object lying in its path as the platform moves in a descending direction.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/437,814 having a filing date of Jan. 3, 2003, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention generally relates to a flexible safety edge guard device. Particularly, this invention relates to a safety edge guard that is fastened to a moveable platform. The safety guard provides the platform with a soft bumper that compresses when it contacts an interfering object in its travel path.

[0003] Vertical lift tables, tilt tables, and other equipment having moveable platforms are widely known. This equipment is used in various industrial applications such as in the handling of materials and packages and in other assembly line operations. The vertical lift tables help provide a safe and healthy work environment. The lift tables help prevent back injuries caused by a person having to constantly bend over to pick-up packages. In general, vertical lift tables include a moveable platform that can be vertically raised and lowered by a power means such as a hydraulic telescopic mast unit or scissor lift. Typically, the moveable platform has steel edges. The lift tables can have a manual or electric motor power supply unit. Scissor lift tables, which have one or more sets of pantograph leg sections that are used to raise and lower the platform, are common. The pantograph leg sections support and stabilize the platform in its raised position. Vertical lift tables can be mounted on a base or placed directly on a supportive surface such as a floor. It is important that a person uses care and follows safety precautions while operating lift tables. Particularly, a person needs to be careful that he or she does not pinch a finger, toe, or other body part under the steel platform as it is lowered to the supporting base or floor.

[0004] Various safety guard devices for lift tables and other equipment having moveable platforms have been proposed. Safety guards for garage doors have also been developed.

[0005] For instance, Richards, U.S. Pat. 3,920,101 discloses a protective device which is fastened to the periphery of a vertically moving platform. The platform moves into and is received in a recessed area formed in a floor. The protective device comprises a rubber band that extends from the platform so that it will brush against an operator's body when he or she is too close to the descending platform. According to the '101 Patent, the rubber band presses against the individual's leg as the platform descends and this warns the individual that he or she is in a danger area and must move back.

[0006] Clarke et al., U.S. Pat. 4,091,906 discloses a collapsible electric foot-toe guard which is used with a loading platform. The collapsible foot-toe guard protects against injuries. The foot-toe guard includes a contact plate which moveably engages a base support plate by a hinge means. The contact plate folds toward the support plate upon engaging an interfering obstacle. According to the '906 Patent, an electric switch circuit can be included so that the folding movement of the contact plate deactivates the electrically-powered descending movement of the platform.

[0007] Ziegler, U.S. Pat. 4,269,253 discloses a safety guard rubber-like strip for roller-type garage doors having horizontal panels which are hinged together. The flexible safety guard strip is attached to the upper outside surface of each door panel so that it extends upwardly. The safety guard strip covers and shields the gap between the hinged panels of the door to protect the door operator from injury. In this manner, the safety guard strip helps prevent an operator from pinching his or her fingers between the hinged panels.

[0008] Although some conventional safety guard devices can protect against injuries from some mechanical devices, there is a need for an improved safety guard device. The improved safety guard should be capable of being easily mounted onto a vertically moveable platform such as the platform used for a lift or tilt table. Furthermore, the improved safety guard should compress upon contacting an interfering object in its travel path. The present invention provides such a safety guard device. These and other objects, features, and advantages of this invention are evident from the following description and attached figures.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present invention relates to an elongated, flexible safety edge guard for use with moveable platforms. The platform has a support frame and is capable of moving in ascending and descending directions. In one embodiment, the safety guard comprises: (i) a substantially “U-shaped” upper portion, and (ii) a lower portion that extends from the U-shaped upper portion. The U-shaped upper portion has opposing side wall segments that are connected together. The side wall segments define an open space therebetween for receiving the support frame of the platform. The safety guard is tightly fastened to the platform by sliding the support frame into the U-shaped upper portion. The support frame can be constructed so that it includes an angle support bracket mounted to each side of the platform. The angle side support bracket can include a vertically extending arm that is inserted into the U-shaped upper portion of the safety guard.

[0010] In one embodiment, the lower portion of the safety guard has opposing side wall segments that are connected together to form a looped structure. The side wall segments define a linear channel therebetween. In another embodiment, the lower portion of the safety guard has a substantially “J-shaped” structure. The J-shaped lower portion includes a vertically extending segment and a hook segment. The flexible safety guard compresses upon contacting an object lying in its path as the platform moves in a descending direction.

[0011] In other instances, the safety edge guard does not include an U-shaped upper portion. For example, the safety guard can include a vertically extending segment and a hook segment to form a substantially J-shaped structure along its entire length. in another example, the safety guard can include a vertically extending segment having one end and an opposing end with a looped structure.

[0012] The safety guard of this invention can be made from any suitable flexible plastic material such as a polyvinyl chloride. The safety guard can be produced by a plastic molding operation. The mold can provide the safety guard with side wall segments having a wavy-like structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] The novel features that are characteristic of the present invention are set forth in the appended claims. However, the preferred embodiments of the invention, together with further objects and attendant advantages, are best understood by reference to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a side perspective view of one embodiment of the safety guard article of the present invention, wherein the safety guard has a “U-shaped” upper portion and a lower portion containing a linear channel;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view through Line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a side perspective view of another embodiment of the safety guard article of the present invention, wherein the safety guard has a “U-shaped” upper portion and a “J-shaped” lower portion;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view through Line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of a scissor-lift table equipped with a safety guard article of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a partially-exploded view showing the safety guard article of the present invention fastened to an angle side support bracket on the under surface of a lift table-platform;

[0020] FIG. 7 is a side perspective view of one embodiment of the safety guard article of the present invention, wherein the safety guard has a “J-shaped” structure; and

[0021] FIG. 8 is a side perspective view of one embodiment of the safety guard article of the present invention, wherein the safety guard has a “looped” structure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0022] Referring to FIG. 1, one embodiment of the safety edge guard 2 of this invention is shown. The elongated, safety edge guard 2 comprises a substantially “U-shaped” upper portion generally indicated at 4 having two upwardly projecting side wall segments 6 and 8 that are connected by an integrated cross-segment 10. The cut-out portion of the “U” forms an upper linear channel 12 that extends along the length of the safety guard 2. In FIG. 1, the safety guard 2 further comprises a lower portion generally indicated at 14 having two side wall segments 16 and 18 surrounding a lower linear channel 20 that extends in parallel to the upper linear channel 12. The safety guard 2 is an unitary structure, wherein lower portion 14 extends from the U-shaped upper portion 4. FIG. 2 shows a cross-sectional end view of the safety guard 2.

[0023] The safety guard 2 can be of any size, and it is recognized that the dimensions can be modified based on the size of the platform which will be fitted with the safety guard. In one embodiment, the overall height of the safety guard 2 can be about 3.5 inches. Particularly, the side wall segment 6 can be about 2 inches and the side wall segment 16 can be about 1.5 inches. The inside diameter of the upper linear channel 12 can be about 0.25 inches. The thickness of the side wall segment 8 can be about 0.2 inches, and the thickness of the side wall segment 18 can be about 0.13 inches.

[0024] The safety guard 2 can be made from any suitable resilient material such as an elastomer, soft vinyl, or other plastic provided that the material bends and deforms sufficiently when striking an interfering object as described further below. For example, the safety guard 2 can be made from polyolefins, polyvinyl chlorides, polyurethanes, polyamides, polyesters, acrylics, polystyrenes, and elastomer rubbers such as styrene-butadiene copolymers, silicones, and polychloroprene. The polymeric materials can be molded into a safety guard 2 having a rubber-like elasticity and texture. The safety guard 2 can be made using any suitable manufacturing technology including extrusion, injection-molding, blow-molding, casting, vacuum molding, and the like. A molding process can be used to mold a safety guard 2 having a molded, unitary structure. The upper portion 4 and lower portion 14 of the safety guard 2 are connected integrally together. Also, the safety guard 2 can be molded so that at least a portion of the guard has an undulating structure as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Particularly, the side wall segments 6 and 16 in the safety guard 2 can have a wave-like design characterized by convex wave peaks (A, B, C, and D) in FIGS. 1 and 2. It is understood that the molded wave-like structure of the side wall segments 6 and 16 is only one of many possible structures and is shown for illustration purposes only. For example, the side wall segments 6 and 16 alternatively may have a generally flat shape.

[0025] Another embodiment of the safety edge guard of this invention is shown in FIG. 3. The elongated, safety edge guard shown in FIG. 3 is generally indicated at 2a. The U-shaped upper portion 4a of the safety guard 2a is similar to the U-shaped upper portion 4 of the safety guard 2 shown in FIG. 1. Particularly, the upper portion 4a includes two side wall segments 6a and 8a that are connected by a cross-segment 10a. The U-shaped upper portion 4a includes an upper linear channel 12a. However, in contrast to the safety guard 2 shown in FIG. 1, the safety guard 2a comprises a substantially “J-shaped” lower portion generally indicated at 22. By the term, “J-shaped” as used herein, it is meant a forward facing “J” and the inverted, mirror image of “J”. The “J-shaped” lower portion 22 includes a vertically extending segment 23 and a hook segment 24. FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view of the safety guard 2a.

[0026] The flexible safety guards 2 and 2a can be fastened to a vertical lift table 26 as shown in FIG. 5. Vertical lift tables 26 are known in the industry and used in various industrial applications such as a platform for packaging finished products or feeding raw materials to processing equipment. The vertical lift table 26 show in FIG. 5 is powered by a motorized hydraulic pump 27, but other power supply means can be used. The safety guards 2 and 2a provide a soft, flexible safety bumper to the vertical lift table 26 and can protect a person operating the table 26 against serious injury. It is also understood that the safety guards 2 and 2a can be fastened to other equipment having a platform that moves in ascending and descending directions in accordance with this invention. For example, the safety guards 2 and 2a can be fastened to tilt tables. Also, in FIG. 5, the safety guard is designated as 2 for illustration purposes only, and the fastening of safety guard 2 to the lift table 26 is described in further detail below. But, it is understood that safety guard 2a can be fastened to the vertical lift table 26 in a similar manner.

[0027] More particularly, a vertical lift table 26 having a set of scissor-like legs 28 and a moveable platform 30 is shown in FIG. 5. The lift table 26 includes a base 32 which is placed on a floor or other supporting surface. The platform 30 has a rectangular shape with one platform end 34 and an opposing end 36 connected by sides 38 and 40. Typically, the platform 30 is made of steel and has a width of about twenty-four (24), thirty-six (36), or forty-eight (48) inches. The platform 30 is shown having a rectangular shape in FIG. 5 for illustration purposes only. However, it is understood that the platform 30 can be of any suitable design; for example, the platform 30 can have a square or circular shape.

[0028] The safety edge guard 2 can be fastened to the platform 30 by means of a support frame 42 as shown in FIG. 6. The support frame 42 provides the platform 30 with mechanical support and a means for attaching the safety edge guard 2 to the platform. In FIG. 6, the support frame 42 includes angle side support brackets 44, each having an upper support arm 46 that extends horizontally and a lower support arm 48 that extends vertically. The angle side support brackets 44 are mounted to the under surface 50 of the platform 30. The top surface of the platform is indicated at 52. The support frame 42 further includes end support brackets 54 which are located at each end of the frame 42. The angle side support brackets 44 and end support brackets 54 can be mounted to the underside 50 of the platform 30 using bolts, screws, or other suitable fastening means. It is recognized that other support frames for the platform can be used in accordance with this invention. The support frame may be an integral part of the lift/tilt table or may be installed onto the table as an additional component to provide a means for fastening the safety edge guard.

[0029] The safety guard 2 can be fastened to the platform 30 by mounting the safety guard 2 onto the support frame 42 in the following manner. Particularly, the U-shaped upper portion 4 of the safety guard 2 receives the lower support arms 48 of the angle side support brackets 44. The lower support arm 48 is inserted into the linear channel 12 of the “U-shaped” upper portion 4. Thus, the safety guard 2 is tightly fastened to the platform 30. The soft, elastic nature of the safety guard 2 means that the safety guard can be manipulated easily to fit around the lower support arm 48 of the angle side support bracket 44. The flexible safety guard 2 conforms snugly around the lower support arm 48 and thus tightly secures the safety guard 2 to the platform 30. As shown in FIG. 6, the safety guard can be wrapped around the corners of the support frame 42 and fastened to the end support bracket 54 by adhesives, bolts, or other suitable fasteners.

[0030] The safety guard 2 helps prevent injuries to a person operating the vertical lift table 26. As discussed above, the safety guard 2 can extend around the entire perimeter of the platform 30. The safety guard 2 provides a comprehensive safety bumper skirt when fastened to all of the edges of the platform 30. In operation, the flexible safety guard 2 compresses when it strikes an interfering object lying in its travel path. The safety guard 2 acts as a warning signal or bumper to soften the blow of the platform 30 against the object. For instance, if the platform 30 descends accidentally while an operator is working with the table 26, the flexible safety guard 2 initially contacts the operator's hands or feet. This contact gives the operator an opportunity to move quickly away from the platform 30 and avoid injury. If the operator is unable to move away from the descending platform 30, and the platform continues descending to its fully lowered position, the flexible safety guard 2 can cushion the blow.

[0031] In still another embodiment, the safety edge guard does not include the “U-shaped” upper portion 4 or 4a as shown in FIGS. 1-6. Rather, a safety guard 60 having a “J-shaped” structure as shown in FIG. 7, or a safety guard 70 having a “looped structure” as shown in FIG. 8 can be made in accordance with this invention. In FIG. 7, the elongated, safety edge guard 60 is characterized by having a vertically extending segment 62 and a hook segment 64. In FIG. 8, the elongated, safety edge guard 70 includes a vertically extending segment having one end 72 and an opposing end 74 with a looped structure 76. The looped structure 76 defines a linear channel 78 that extends along the length of the safety guard 70. The safety edge guard 60 or 70 can be fastened to a support frame of a moveable platform by adhesives, screws, bolts, or other suitable fasteners.

[0032] The safety edge guards 60 and 70 operate in a manner similar to the safety edge guards 2 and 2a described above. The safety edge guards 60 and 70 bend and deform upon striking an interfering object such as a human limb lying in the path of the descending platform 30. The compressing action of the safety guard 60 helps cushion the blow against the interfering object and can protect against serious bodily injury. Particularly, the hook segment 64 of the flexible safety guard 60 contacts the foreign object initially and this force causes the safety guard 60 to compress. With respect to the flexible safety guard 70, the looped structure 76 makes initial contact with the foreign object and triggers the compression of the safety guard 70. The safety guards 60 and 70 bend and absorb the striking force against the object.

[0033] It is appreciated by those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made to the illustrated embodiments and description herein without departing from the spirit of the present invention. All such modifications and changes are intended to be covered by the appended claims.