A Guide to Caster Brakes and Floor Locks for Enhanced Workplace Safety

Introduction 

In the ever-mobile world of manufacturing and distribution, workplace safety is paramount. One often-overlooked aspect of safety is the proper functioning of equipment that moves – specifically, casters. Caster brakes and floor locks play a crucial role in ensuring equipment stability and preventing unintended movement, contributing significantly to a safer work environment. In this blog, we delve into the importance of caster brakes and floor locks, exploring their functions, types, and a few industries that benefit from their implementation. 

Detail 

When to Use Caster Brakes and Floor Locks 

Caster brakes and floor locks are used for the same purpose: to secure a cart or piece of equipment in place so that it becomes stable from additional unwanted movement. Each has its advantages and deciding on which to use, or to use together, is highly dependent on the design of your equipment, types of casters being used (size and swivel vs. rigid construction), budget, and primary usage. If efficiency to quickly brake and re-mobilize a cart is a priority, a floor lock may be a great solution for industrial carts. If being able to freely swivel a piece of equipment in any direction and then securely keep it in place is your primary use case, utilizing swivel casters with brakes on all corners would be the better solution. As noted, there are many configurations and solutions as shown below for casters (with or without brakes), so thinking through how to make it the most effective solution for your operator and equipment usage is important. Caster Specialists can help with this should you need support and best practices. 

Understanding Caster Brakes 

Caster brakes are mechanical mechanisms added to casters and designed to stop and secure the rotation of caster wheels on flat surfaces, and potentially the swivel section as well, preventing them from unintentionally continuing to move. Brakes are essential for maintaining stability when equipment or machinery needs to remain stationary—especially in environments where heavy loads are present, equipment or materials can be shaken/fall from a cart, or employees/patients could get injured. Standard caster brakes are not designed for and should not be used to stop equipment or carts on inclines. 

 

Key Functions of Caster Brakes: 

  1. Locking Wheel Rotation: The most basic and common function is to lock the wheels from continuing to roll when the brake is applied. There are a few common types of brakes that accomplish this, detailed below. 
  2. Locking Wheel and Caster Swivel Section: Another need, especially when you are looking to prevent any unintended movement of equipment, is the use of a brake that locks both the roll of the wheel but also the swivel section of the caster. This is called a total lock brake and it is often used on medical equipment and a variety of light and medium-duty industrial products.  
  3. Locking the Swivel Section Only: When a piece of equipment or cart needs to be steered without drifting to the side, and then needs to be pushed up against a wall, a direction lock comes in very handy. It locks only the swivel section when the brake is engaged and then lets it swivel freely again once your steering needs are complete. 

Types of Caster Brakes:

  1. Friction/CAM Brake: A friction, or CAM brake, uses friction to pinch either the legs of the caster fork or a specified washer onto the wheel hub to create holding friction on the wheel. This is a common side-activated brake in light and medium-duty products and can be a more economical brake choice. 
  2. Tread Lock Brakes: Creating positive engagement on the face (or tread) of the wheel with a brake arm/spring/pedal, tread lock brakes create a stronger wheel brake than friction/CAM brakes. Tread lock brakes come in a variety of types and are the most common industrial brake type. They are available in side-lever brakes, top pedal brakes, and extended pedal brake designs. Brakes are commonly used on swivel casters but there are also rigid caster brakes available for additional locking strength for your equipment. Many carts utilize two rigid casters and two swivel casters with brakes in their design. 
  3. Total Lock Brake: This pedal-activated type of brake locks both the swivel and wheel rotation simultaneously when activated, providing maximum stability and movement prevention of the brake types available. It is commonly used in applications where stationary positioning is crucial to safety or inventory/materials and is standard in most medical applications. 
  4. Directional Lock Brake: These brakes only lock the swivel action, allowing the wheel to still rotate. This is beneficial in applications where controlled movement is required while preventing unnecessary swiveling but then can be disengaged for free swiveling again. Another solution to this is the add-on of an industrial caster swivel lock for 2” wide applicable casters. 
  5. Thumb screw or side-pin brake: These brake types are typically found on low-profile casters for vending machines, cabinets, and server racks. Because of the low-profile nature and limited bottom access to these products, foot-activated brakes are difficult to get to and the brakes are usually used minimally. As such, these hand-activated brakes allow you to either twist a set screw into the side of the wheel wall or activate a side-locking caster brake pin for specially designed models. 

Each brake type has its advantages and specific use cases for the industries and applications they were designed for. If you need support with selecting the right caster brake solution, please contact us for fast help. 

 

Main view of an Albion Casters Caster Hardware for 4" x 4-1/2" top plates with swivel rigs must be notched and field-Installable it is Allows easy cart steering under part# CSL00002 16 SER DET SWL LK ASY

Understanding Floor Locks 

When carts or equipment are moved, loaded, and unloaded often—many customers want a quick way to engage a single brake for stability and injury potential prevention. Running around to engage and disengage two or four caster brakes is not always the most efficient in high-performance operations. As such, a great solution is the floor lock for level surfaces. It can be mounted on carts and equipment in conjunction with casters (with or without caster brakes) and is usually mounted near the handle—so once the cart is stopped, it can be quickly engaged to push a large pad to the ground for a positively engaged brake (multiple floor locks could also be installed, but often it is a single floor lock utilized with swivel and rigid casters and mounted in between the swivel casters). Floor locks are typically used with industrial 2” wide wheel casters with 4”x4.5” top plates, which are primary truck and cart casters in industrial environments. As such, the floor lock top plate matches them and is set to work with all of the standard heights of those casters. Simply match the recommended caster height of the floor lock to your caster’s overall height and you will be set up to mount all casters and the floor lock at the same frame level on your equipment. 

 

Key Functions of Floor Locks: 

  1. Preventing Movement: Floor locks secure equipment in place by making direct and positive contact with the floor with a large brake pad, preventing unintended movement due to vibrations or external forces. 
  2. Quick Brake Application: Instead of having to move around and activate brakes on multiple casters, a single easy-to-access floor lock acts like a central brake for more efficient braking—which is critical in high-performance warehouses.  
  3. Enhancing Worker Safety: Floor locks contribute to a safer workplace by providing a more ergonomic way of activating a brake. Sometimes casters can be “hidden” or less accessible under a cart which can make it difficult for a user to activate the brakes. A floor lock is always easy to access, as it does not rotate and can be placed on the perimeter of the equipment for fast and safe access. 

 

Types of Floor Locks: 

  1. Ergonomic Extended-Pedal Floor Locks: These are the safest and most user-friendly floor locks on the market. Large and extended pedals make engaging and disengaging these floor locks a simple and safe task. A separate “OFF” release pedal appears after engagement so the operator has clear visibility on how to engage and disengage the floor lock. 
  2. Single Pedal Foot-Operated Floor Locks with Release Tabs/Wire: These floor locks are engaged with the use of a pedal that is pushed down with your foot. Separate release pads or wire bars are located near the pedal to release or disengage the floor lock. They are commonly made of tubular and stamped steel and heavy-duty versions out of cast iron. 
  3. Dual Pedal Floor Operated Floor Lock: Some do not like the kick or wire bar release of some single pedal floor locks for safety reasons. As such, a dual pedal design can eliminate the snag point of the bar and reduce the “spring-back” by controlling the disengagement with the use of another pedal on the opposite side of the engagement pedal (both pedals face the operator, left/right orientation). 

 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, caster brakes and floor locks are integral components of workplace safety, contributing to the stability and control of equipment and machinery. By understanding their functions, types available, and how/where to use them, industries can make informed decisions on how to enhance the safety of their work environments. As demand for higher-performing and safer facilities continues to increase, the importance of the right caster brakes and floor locks will likely play a more important role in ensuring workplace safety, especially in industrial settings. 

For high-quality floor locks and caster brake solutions, check out CasterSpecialists.com, your go-to source for reliable and innovative industrial caster products. 

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