The History of Plastic Safety Barriers

Through the years, safety barriers have been used to facilitate event planning, to protect roadside construction crews, and to ensure airport runway safety, but the history of these barriers goes back farther than you might think — perhaps the earliest use of modern safety barriers occurred in Belgium in September 1864. Faced with the impending arrival of the famous French photographer Nadar, and the huge crowds that would accompany his visit, Brussels mayor Jules Anspach had a novel idea: in order to deal with the throngs of people coming to see Nadar, he ordered the construction of mobile, wooden barriers to keep the crowd at bay. Thus, crowd control barricades were born. 

Let’s take a look at a few key moments in the development of plastic safety barriers and the history of barriers in general: 

Samia Barriers

The first interlocking barriers were introduced in France in the 1950s by a company called Samia. These original models were made from steel and they gained popularity throughout Europe, making their way eventually to the United States. Samia barriers were used at a wide range of events, from rock concerts to the Olympic games. 

Samia has since gone out of business, and to a large degree, plastic interlocking barriers have replaced their steel predecessors. As opposed to older steel models, new plastic barricades are more durable, less likely to fall over or develop sharp edges, are more customizable, and are easier to set up and break down. 

Jersey Barriers & LCDs

Though the United States produced millions of cars in the first half of the twentieth century, roadside barriers at that time didn’t exist as they do today. In fact, it wasn’t until 1955 that the state of New Jersey introduced a set of very small (18-inches high) barriers along a mountainous stretch of US-22. It was after that time that barriers began to take on greater prominence along roadsides. These early concrete Jersey Barriers were the forerunners of the plastic barriers now used along roadways. 

Though concrete jersey barriers have changed much over the years, professionals have used its basic design as a model to form plastic longitudinal channelizing devices (LCDs), which were first launched in 2003. These plastic barriers were specifically designed to replace concrete models in high-speed areas and reduce the impact of car accidents.

airplane taking off above mid-profile airport barricades

Airport Safety

Just as plastic barriers have improved roadside safety measures, so too have they enhanced airport safety. For years, airports used a combination of large wooden beams (known as railroad ties), reflective panels, lights, and concrete barriers to mark off construction areas and redirect planes. 

Unfortunately, these devices increased the possibility of foreign object debris and were susceptible to weathering, insects, and rot. The FAA officially banned their use in 2003, but OTW was ahead of the game even by that time. In 1999, OTW Safety founder Marc Christensen patented the first low-profile plastic airport barricade. These new models, manufactured from rotationally-molded plastic, could withstand jet engine blasts, but were crucially designed to collapse when struck by aircraft (as opposed to concrete barriers, which had contributed to several fatalities in airplane crashes). They were — and are — innovative safety equipment that are fixtures at airports around the world.

Conclusion

Safety barriers have evolved across a variety of fields and in a number of ways over the past centuries and decades. And at OTW, it’s our mission to stay on the cutting edge of this industry. For more information about our process, our products, and our mission, contact us here. We can’t wait to work with you!

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