Personnel Safety

Can Your Cage Protect Your People?

EP Editorial Staff | February 22, 2024

Safety cages with an umbrella-type structure effectively deflect large pieces of coating, rock, and other debris on all sides of the device.

Consider these factors when evaluating safety cages to assure they will protect workers from falling debris. 

By Heather Harding, Bricking Solutions Inc.

Worksite safety plays a big role in refractories, mines, construction worksites and a number of other operations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 50,000 workers were injured in 2020 when struck by falling debris. Additionally, between 2016 and 2020, there were 1,228 recorded fatalities due to the same safety hazard. Instances that don’t result in major injury or fatality often go unrecorded, which means the true numbers could be, and likely are, much higher. 

These statistics are a hard reality and a major motivator for many companies to invest in safety equipment. Along with enhanced training and increased safety procedures, well-designed safety equipment can play a large role in company efforts to protect employees from unnecessary risks. Safety cages are a simple, often overlooked solution that protects workers from falling objects, whether they are working in a kiln, in a mine, or on a construction site. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a quality safety cage. 

Design quality

The first criterion to consider is the quality of the design and material. Look for a manufacturer that designs its safety cages to meet the most stringent global standards and uses high-quality materials, such as 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. Well-designed safety cages include an umbrella-type structure to deflect large pieces of coating, rock, and other debris from all sides and angles of the cage. To absorb the initial impact, the roof ribs are designed with “crumple zones,” much like a car, to protect the workers inside. 

Another shock-absorbing feature is specially engineered legs that contain springs that absorb the remaining impact energy of falling material. The legs are tipped with spikes that dig into the ground to provide extra traction and stability upon impact. To catch smaller debris, look for lightweight stainless steel mesh netting. 

Preventing serious injuries is just one part of the safety equation. Ergonomic equipment also prevents physical strain that can cause injury and disability over time. A quality safety cage is constructed from lightweight material that makes it easy for two workers to carry. A safety cage made from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, for example, is just 140 lb., which is approximately half the weight of a steel alternative. 

Cages that use lightweight materials, such as aircraft quality aluminum, and have ergonomic features protect workers during moving and setup activities.

Tested and proven

Safety cage manufacturers put their designs through various impact tests to ensure the material will stand up to the strain. Look for a manufacturer that implements computer simulations and intensive destructive testing. Some manufacturers even conduct drop tests at 125% the maximum distance that actual conditions would allow. These tests involve using overweight materials dropped on different points of the cage at different angles to test each safety component. This level of research helps the manufacturer determine the maximum mass and velocity that the product can handle. Some safety cages can withstand as much as 250 lb. falling from a height of 96 in. 

The real test is how the cage performs on the jobsite. A cement plant in Turkey, for example, had an incident where large amounts of coating fell while two workers were inside the kiln. The workers were using a high-quality safety cage that had been rigorously tested and it handily withstood a greater load than its rating. The workers survived the collapse and escaped without injury. 

Keeping employees safe is one of the biggest factors of any jobsite, which is why safety is a subject that keeps industry leaders up at night. Something as simple as the addition of a safety cage to a jobsite can result in lives saved. Investing in a safe, quality product protects employees and, in the long run, companies from fines and high insurance costs. Ultimately, investments in safety equipment are investments in success.  

Heather Harding is the Managing Director for Bricking Solutions Inc., Monroe, WA, a manufacturer of kiln refractory installation solutions. She has served in various positions in the company for 14 years. For more information, visit


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