Four Ways to Improve Warehouse Rack Safety

By MHI Industry Group ProGMA

Much like people, warehouse racks are not invincible. Factors such as overloading, poor design and installation errors can all lead to rack failure. However, impacts from mobile equipment are one of the leading causes of damage and racking collapses.

If large machinery bumps your racking, there’s a good chance it can cause some damage – or, as we’ve seen in those horror-inducing videos on the internet, a total collapse. And collapses don’t always happen at the moment of impact; they can often be induced later due to jostled goods or structural damage. Minor unreported impacts over time can lead to severe damage, as these constant little impacts can all add up and shorten the rack’s fatigue life.

Even if an impact doesn’t cause a collapse, small amount of damage to racking can still be problematic. It can result in pallet spaces being cornered off and rendered inoperative. Downtime can be a significant problem even for large blue-chip organizations. Stephen Fletcher, Facilities Department Team Leader at DHL said, “Losing a set of racking would cause much disruption to our business and be expensive to replace.” With such high stakes, what advice is available to help businesses prevent racking collapses from occurring?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has legislation that states, “Storage of material shall not create a hazard” and, “Where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient safe clearances shall be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made.” However, there is no specific mention of how to prevent damage to racking. The OSHA also briefly addresses the precautions workers must take to avoid storage hazards in Materials Handling and Storage, but again, there is nothing specific on racking. With so little help available, we want to introduce you to four essential ways to improve warehouse rack safety.

Rack Leg Protectors
Rack leg protectors are essential to protecting vulnerable rack legs. Rack leg protectors work by absorbing energy from impacts to both the front and side of the leg or deflecting it altogether. Having both front and side protection is important because the zone of impact may vary depending on which direction the vehicle is traveling. Rack leg protection should be attached to the rack legs securely to ensure it does not come off from scrape impacts or during a pallet removal. Features like frictional grip points and compression hinges can help ensure this. Racking protection with a slim profile is best, as it provides minimal intrusion into bay areas, ensuring that every pallet space is used effectively.

Rack-End Guardrails
The ends of racking aisles are a crucial area to protect, as these areas are prone to impacts from turning vehicles and rack-end guardrails can be used to absorb and deflect impacts from them. For enhanced protection, source guardrails with circular end posts and spinning collars. Rack-end protection can be strengthened further through the addition of fork protection. This type of protection will defend racking structures from the ground up by cushioning impacts and preventing forks from penetrating the racks.

Traffic Management
Effective traffic management in the workplace will reduce the risk of workplace vehicles bumping into racking. PAS 13, published by the British Standards Institution (BSI), is the only Code of Practice that contains best practice traffic management procedures to reduce the risk of accidents in the industrial workplace. PAS 13 states that it is better to segregate traffic from critical structures, such as racking, by creating defined traffic routes using guardrails. However, where traffic movement next to racking is unavoidable, both visual and physical protection is needed, such as rack leg guards. Furthermore, effective signage can be used to guide vehicles in a one-way system. This avoids the need to reverse and minimizes impact risk.

Overhead Protection
For bridge racks, consider implementing overhead safety products for added protection. Overhead height restrictors provide vehicle drivers with visual guidance and warn them if their vehicle or load is too high. Overhead safety products can also offer physical protection if a collision occurs by cushioning and deflecting impact forces. Some intelligent height restrictors also provide audio and visual alerts to avoid collisions before damage can occur.

Installing racking protection and having an effective traffic management system in place are crucial for ensuring safety in the warehouse. Damage to racking can be extremely expensive for businesses in terms of downtime and collateral damage. Furthermore – although rare – racking collapses can kill people or give them life-changing injuries. Making some simple changes and installing the right safety products in your workplace can save lives and will make your business operations more effective and more successful.

Companies looking to enhance their facility’s safety with guarding solutions should consider partnering with an experienced material handling solutions provider like the members of ProGMA. Their knowledge can help companies protect the things that matter most. Learn more today at