co-op-birtley-3The new Co-op Composite Distribution Centre between Birtley and Chester-le-Street in County Durham covers 25,600 sq metres (276,000 sq ft) and supplies a vast range of products from the 3,500 lines stocked to 262 Co-operative stores in the North and North East of England. This keeps the 500+ staff very busy with a couple of hundred vehicle movements every day.

In such a working environment safety is paramount and architects RPS Burks Green were just as keen as the Co-op to ensure that all areas were properly protected. This was primarily to protect staff from injury by the many fork lift trucks, pallet movers and other equipment used in abundance. Walkways were separated wherever possible by heavy duty steel balustrades both internally and externally.

berrylogocmykPlant and equipment was also protected by the careful siting of bollards, fork lift truck wheel guides, racking protectors and column protectors. Height restrictors were fitted on internal doorways and vulnerable areas were further protected by double barriers specifically designed to prevent the incursion of forks at low levels. Outside in the HGV area perimeter, barriers were supplemented by speed ramps and wheel stops.

co-op-birtley-2Main contractor Clegg Special Projects appointed safety specialist Berry Systems to supply and install the safety barriers, including Berry’s own spring steel buffers which are designed and tested to absorb impacts from cars, HGVs and fork lift trucks, while retaining their integrity and ongoing effectiveness. These were used on the double barriers for forklift protection, the HGV perimeter barriers and the ramps where pedestrian handrails were also fitted. Smaller versions were used on the column protectors.

The balustrading, rack end protectors, fork lift wheel guides, bollards and height restrictors where painted in eye-catching yellow for added visibility and consistent awareness. In total, well over 3 km of various safety barriers and balustrading was installed, plus three swinging interior gateways, custom designed to the precise requirements of this installation.

The Co-op were also determined to ensure the environmental credentials of the new development and so features, such as a 150,000 litre rainwater collection system, were installed to make the plant self sufficient in non-potable water during all but the driest periods. Waste oil helps to provide heating and the lighting system is solar controlled to eliminate wastage by providing a variable level of interior lighting to automatically complement exterior light levels.

co-op-birtley-1Distribution Manager Colin Smith said “We’re delighted with all the safety equipment in this new, state of the art facility. It all seems to be functioning excellently and the service from Berry has been very good. They responded to our needs throughout and their products are well engineered.”

Berry’s Sales and Marketing Manager Simon Bradbury said “We’re very pleased to have carried out this installation for the Co-op. It emphasises the experience we have installing safety barriers at large distribution centres throughout the UK. You can’t cut corners where safety is concerned and it’s vital that products can be proved to perform at the required levels by fully independent testing as well as by utilising tried and tested design expertise.”

For further information please contact Berry Systems on 01902 491100 or visit

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