Polymer safety barriers are widely becoming the standard for industrial workplace protection. But what is polymer and how do polymer safety systems work? We’ve created a short guide to help you understand why polymer is a worthwhile investment.
Jump ahead to the section that is relevant to you:
- Polymer: Understanding the basics
- A-SAFE polymer safety barriers: What are they and what do they do?
- How does a polymer barrier work?
- Maintaining polymer safety barriers
- Polymer barrier testing and certification
Polymer: Understanding the basics
You may be wondering about polymer - specifically what it is and how it differs from the other materials used in safety barriers. This section will cover some FAQs.
What is polymer?
Polymer is a material that is made up of smaller molecules that link together in a chain to form larger molecules. ‘Poly’ means ‘many, ‘mer’ means ‘bits’.
There are both natural polymers and synthetic polymers
What are natural polymers?
Natural polymers are polymers that occur in nature and can be extracted from plants or animals for other uses. Examples of natural polymers include:
What are synthetic polymers?
Synthetic polymers are manmade polymers that have been designed or engineered for specific uses. Examples of synthetic polymers include:
What are the different types of plastic polymer?
While plastic is an example of a synthetic polymer, there are thousands of different types of plastic. Different types of plastic polymer include:
- Polyvinyl chloride
Each of these plastic polymers has different properties and compositions, and they are designed for a range of functions.
We believe polymer is the best material for safety barriers. That's why we created the world's first advanced polymer safety barrier. Speak to a member of our team to find out how our products can help create cost-effective and low-maintenance solutions for your facility.
What are they and what do they do?
At A-SAFE, we design and manufacture world-leading polymer safety barriers and products. In this section, we will discuss polymer barriers and our role in creating them.
What are polymer safety barriers?
Polymer barriers are plastic barriers that are made up of millions of smaller molecules. The dense structure of polymer means that it is possible for the barriers to take an impact and reform to their original shape.
They provide more cost-effective and long-term industrial protection than standard steel or concrete safety barriers.
Learn more: Concrete, Steel and Polymer: Which Safety Barrier is Best?
Who is A-SAFE?
A-SAFE is the leading manufacturer of advanced polymer safety barriers and bollards.
The company began life as a polymer manufacturer specialising in film products, before turning to the world of safety. In 2001, A-SAFE invented and created the very first advanced polymer safety barrier. Twenty years later, A-SAFE products are trusted by the world's best-known brands. Now in their third generation, A-SAFE barriers uses patented design to deliver unrivalled impact protection. Our barriers are made with a unique polymer called Memaplex™.
What is Memaplex™?
Memaplex™ is a revolutionary three-layered polymer material designed exclusively by A-SAFE.
During manufacturing, the barrier undergoes a molecular reorientation that stretches the molecular structure of the polymer as it is being formed on the extrusion line. This realigns the molecules into a grid structure to create a unique built-in memory that allows the polymer to reform to its existing shape after an impact.
As a leading manufacturer of polymer barriers, A-SAFE has created safety systems for companies as diverse as Coca Cola, DHL, BMW and Gatwick airport. No matter what your industry, we can help you create bespoke protection for your workforce, machinery and facility.
How does a polymer safety barrier work?
As the inventor of the world’s first advanced polymer safety barrier, A-SAFE has developed and evolved the design of its polymer barriers to ensure they provide the most effective protection possible.
Robust, flexible polymer safety barrier
As mentioned above, the exclusive Memaplex™ polymer material is made up of three layers and is specially engineered to absorb the force of an impact and reform to its original shape.
The three layers in a Memaplex™ barrier are:
- An outer UV-stabilised, coloured layer
- The central impact absorption zone
- The inner strengthening core
Memaplex™ barrier outer layer
The outer layer of an A-SAFE barrier is self-coloured, meaning the highly visible colour is created during the manufacturing process, so it can’t fade or scratch away over time. The yellow colour is part of a standardised colour coding scheme to denote a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.
The outer layer is UV-stabilised and tested to ISO 4892-3, so it cannot discolour or fade when exposed to direct sunlight.
Memaplex™ barrier inner layer
The second layer in an A-SAFE barrier is the area where the force of an impact is absorbed. The design helps to diffuse the kinetic energy created during a collision, diverting it away from the point of impact.
Memaplex™ barrier core layer
The central layer of an A-SAFE barrier is designed to provide additional strength and support to the barrier, so it can withstand the force of an impact.
Polymer safety barrier posts
Traditionally, the vertical posts of a barrier are the weakest point and most likely to need repairing or replacing in the event of an accident.
With steel barriers, fence posts can be ripped from the floor, causing additional damage to the concrete footings or floor surface. With some polymer safety barriers, an impact can cause the barrier rail to break from the posts.
A-SAFE undertook an extensive development process in order to create a post that could withstand an impact. They came up with a unique coupling technology that allows the post to adapt as the rail is struck, increasing barrier flexibility.
The coupling technology design is made up of:
- The post
- The rail
- The post pin
- The coupling
- The rail pin
- A compression pocket
It features a three-phase system that activates in stages as the barrier is struck. This allows the coupling to absorb and disperse impact energy throughout the rest of the barrier. The unique coupling system takes the strain away from the barrier posts and, most importantly, the fixings on the ground, reducing the need to replace the barrier or fix the floor surface after a collision.
A-SAFE barriers have a unique modular design, which means they can be configurated in several ways to create bespoke protection throughout your site.
This modular system is compatible with a range of additional safety equipment, such as swing gates and slide gates as well as pedestrian and traffic barriers.
The benefit of the modular system is that if a barrier is struck with a substantial force to the point of irreparable rail damage, one rail can be detached from a run to be fixed or replaced individually. This limits the number of barriers that need removing in order to access the damaged area.
With their modular design and impact-absorbing technology, A-SAFE barriers provide robust and reliable protection at warehouses, factories, airports, car parks and other industrial facilities. Our team of safety experts can identify the right barriers to suit your needs. Contact them today for advice and information.
Maintaining polymer safety barriers
Most safety barriers require a degree of maintenance once they are installed. This might mean painting them certain colours so that they denote hazards or dangers and can be seen by drivers. Or, in the case of steel barriers, it might mean ensuring they do not rust.
Polymer barriers are lower-maintenance than traditional steel and concrete barriers. A-SAFE barriers have a range of properties that mean they require almost no maintenance at all.
A-SAFE polymer barriers are self-coloured. This means the colour is created during the manufacturing process so it can’t be scratched off or become faded. This reduces the amount of time needed to repaint barriers.
The yellow colour conforms with the standard colour scheme to denote hazards, so drivers and pedestrians are made aware of potential risks.
Our barriers are tested to ISO 4892-3 to ensure that they can withstand prolonged exposure to direct sunlight without fading or losing colour.
Given that A-SAFE barriers are expected to withstand large forces from solid vehicles such as forklift trucks, it’s important that they can’t be easily damaged. Our barriers are measured to a hardness of 66 in line with ISO 686 so that they can’t easily be scratched or scuffed.
As our barriers provide robust protection in a variety of industrial settings, it’s important that they are not susceptible to harmful substances or chemicals. A-SAFE barriers are chemical-resistant and non-corroding, in line with ISO/TR 10358.
It is important that safety barriers are hygienic, especially when used in factories that specialise in food production. That’s why our barriers are hygiene sealed to prevent water or bacteria breaching the surface.
As well as providing robust protection from site vehicles and other moving objects, A-SAFE barriers are designed to withstand repeated impacts, corrosive chemicals, scuffs and scratches, as well as UV rays. With a range of polymer barriers to choose from, including barriers designed to work in cold storage facilities, A-SAFE can provide the ultimate protection for your factory or warehouse.
Polymer barrier testing and certification
As with any safety product, you need to know it works effectively. Below is the information you need to be sure A-SAFE polymer barriers are tested and certified by the relevant authorities.
PAS 13-compliant and performance-rated polymer barriers
As part of our mission to improve safety on site, A-SAFE pushed for the creation of PAS 13. PAS 13 is the code of practice for safety barrier installation and testing. Created by the British Standards Institution in partnership with the UK Health and Safety Executive and a steering committee of innovative blue-chip companies, PAS 13 covers all aspects of safety barrier usage in the industrial workplace. If barriers are PAS 13-compliant, you can be sure they provide effective protection.
In addition, PAS 13 brings a standardisation to industrial safety barrier testing. The detailed advice within PAS 13 requires safety barrier manufacturers to comply with strict guidelines around testing and recording data. This ensures customers have peace-of-mind and can trust the performance claims made by manufacturers.
TÜV Nord-certified polymer barriers
Another way to be sure that safety barriers meet the standards required to protect your facility is to look at independent accreditation from trusted authorities. A-SAFE polymer safety barriers are independently certified by TÜV Nord, world-class experts in testing.
Speak to a member of the A-SAFE team to find out how PAS 13 can help you create effective traffic management and pedestrian segregation in your facility. We can identify the most suitable forms of safety systems to protect your people, assets and critical infrastructure.
Understanding polymer barriers | A summary
Polymer safety barriers can feel more complicated to understand than traditional concrete and steel barriers, but the truth is far simpler. Polymer barriers offer advanced, low-maintenance and long-lasting protection at busy sites and facilities. The advancement of technology allows you to protect your workforce, stock and machinery with greater efficiency.
Talk to a member of the A-SAFE team to find out how our range of advanced polymer safety systems can help improve safety across your site while minimising the need for repairs, maintenance and downtime.